An alleged member of the banned neo-Nazi group National Action has admitted to plotting to kill a British MP and making threats to kill a police officer.
Jack Renshaw, 23, of Skelmersdale, Lancashire, bought a Gladius machete to kill the West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper last summer.
On the opening day of his trial at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, Renshaw pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism and making threats to kill a police officer, DC Victoria Henderson.
The judge, Mr Justice Robert Jay, directed the jury to deliver a formal guilty verdict on the two charges. Renshaw also faces a third charge of membership of the banned far right group, which he denies.
He is on trial alongside Christopher Lythgoe, 32, from Warrington, who is charged with encouraging Renshaw to murder Cooper on behalf of National Action, believing the act would be committed. He denies the charges.
Four other men – Garron Helm, 24, of Seaforth, Merseyside; Matthew Hankinson, 24, of Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside; Andrew Clark, 33, and Michael Trubini, 35, both of Warrington – are also charged with membership of National Action. They deny the charge.
The court heard that Renshaw had bought the machete to kill Cooper between 5 June and 3 July last year. He made threats while in a pub in Warrington on 1 July last year, it was alleged.
Duncan Atkinson, prosecuting, told the court that National Action had engaged since 2013 in a campaign of “virulently racist, antisemitic and homophobic propaganda through which it sought to stir up a violent ‘race war’ against ethnic minorities and others it perceived as ‘race traitors’.”
He said the group “actively sought to recruit and radicalise young people through the violent imagery and hate-filled language of its social media messages, its provocative street demonstrations and intimidation of local communities”.
It was such activities, culminating it its support of the murder of the Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016, that led to its proscription by the home secretary in December 2016.
The court heard how a significant amount of evidence came from a former member of National Action called Robbie Mullen. Mullen, the prosecution said, told how the group, under the leadership of Lythgoe, continued to function post-proscription, with the primary desire to start a race war and to free “white Britain”.
Other sources of evidence included material found at the defendants’ addresses and on their electronic devices, including communications with each other. All of the defendants are alleged to be part of the north-west area groups, which met at a pub in Warrington called the Friar Penketh.
The prosecution said Renshaw planned to engage in politically motivated murder, and sought the approval of the organisation and hoped to advance its cause through this killing. His motivation was also personal, the court heard.
Renshaw was arrested on 11 January 2017 on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred. He was interviewed by an officer called DC Victoria Henderson and a male police officer, before being released pending further investigation.
On Renshaw’s arrest, a phone was recovered and analysed, revealing what police considered to be evidence of child sex offences (grooming), the court heard. Renshaw was again arrested and interviewed in respect of those allegations on 19 May 2017, again by a team including Henderson.
On 1 July 2017, the prosecution said there was a meeting at the Friar Penketh pub attended by most of the defendants. Mullen was also there.
At this meeting, Renshaw told the group he was planning to kill his local member of parliament, Cooper. “She was of the same party, Labour, as Jo Cox MP had been: she was therefore perceived to have the same support for immigration to this country that has been advanced as a reason for Jo Cox’s death, and more especially for National Action’s support for the actions of her murderer,” Atkinson said.
During the meeting Renshaw said that after killing Cooper he would take some people hostage and would demand that DC Henderson attended the scene. “His plan then would be to kill the officer who was, he said, his real target,” Atkinson said.
Renshaw said he had already purchased the machete that he would use to carry out the killing. The weapon, marketed online as offering “19 inches of unprecedented piercing and slashing power at a bargain price”, was later found by police hidden in an airing cupboard.
Renshaw’s internet search history also related to wounding and his identified target, Cooper.
The court heard how nothing of significance would happen without Lythgoe’s approval, and that was why Renshaw brought up the plan. Lythgoe’s alleged response was to give his consent by saying “don’t fuck it up”. He also advised Renshaw to take precautions to ensure his media devices were not linked to other members in the group, the court heard.
Atkinson, prosecuting, said: “The politically and racially motivated killing of an MP would be an act of terrorism, and Renshaw is charged with preparing to carry out just an act.”
Mullen, believing that Renshaw was serious and there was a real and imminent threat to life, reported what had been said to his contacts at Hope Not Hate, after which Cooper was warned of the threat and a police investigation was launched.
National Action was the first extreme rightwing group to be proscribed since the second world war, and the 85th group to be proscribed in the UK overall.