A British neo-Nazi was convicted Monday for plotting a terror attack on a gay pride event at a local pub after he boasted of his plan to a far-right Facebook group.
Ethan Stables, an unemployed 20-year-old from the northwestern town of Barrow-on-Furness, was found guilty of preparing an act of terrorism, making threats to kill and possessing explosives. He’ll be sentenced Wednesday.
Police were tipped off to Stables’ plan by a member of a far-right Facebook group to whom he had bragged about his plans. Stables posted pictures of his machete and the pub to the group, writing that he planned to “slaughter every single one of the gay bastards.”
A woman who Stables had added to the group but who didn’t agree with his extremist views, alerted the authorities, and they arrested him as he walked toward the New Empire pub on the evening of the planned attack, last June 23. During a search of his flat, police found a machete, an ax, evidence of bomb-making attempts, and a huge swastika flag.
The court heard that Stables had become obsessed with Nazi ideology by September 2016, becoming sufficiently radicalized in the space of just nine months that he planned to commit an act of violence. As well as railing against the gay community online, he also expressed hatred toward Jews and Muslims. He told an acquaintance in a WhatsApp message a month before the planned attack: “My country is being raped … I might just become a skinhead and kill people.”
His internet search history showed he’d researched queries including “I want to go on a killing spree,” “how to become a terrorist”, and “what is prison like for a murderer.” He’d also downloaded a bomb-making manual and searched for how to join National Action – a neo-Nazi group that was banned as a terror organization – but was turned away from the group for being too extreme, the BBC reported.
Police released a video of Stables burning a rainbow flag, saying: “Look at it, that rainbow, so much nicer when it’s on fire. It’s just like gay people. Much nicer when they’re on fire.”
Stables, who has an autism spectrum disorder, claimed to the court that he was a fantasist who was making the boasts to impress his far-right associates online, and had never intended to carry out the attack.
He also claimed he was bisexual but had been scared to reveal his sexuality because of his family’s right-wing views.
The case has highlighted the growing threat from Britain’s far-right extremists and the dangers of extremist material to swiftly radicalize people online.
The U.K.’s terror threat level stands at “severe”, meaning an attack is considered “highly likely,” and British security services have warned that the threat from both Islamists and the far-right is growing. The British government revealed in December that the number of white terror suspects arrested had risen by 77 percent from the previous year, making up more than a third of the total.
Recent cases include far-right extremist Darren Osborne, who last week was sentenced to 43 years in jail for killing a man when he deliberately drove his vehicle into a crowd outside a London mosque. A member of National Action is also facing trial for plotting to kill an MP.