Archive

Tag Archives: Cumbria

Kurt McGowan, of Workington, Cumbria, was jailed for seven years at Preston Crown Court

The “chief propagandist” of a far-right extremist group discussed digging a tunnel in the Lake District as a base for their “operations”, a court has heard.

Kurt McGowan, of Workington, Cumbria, was jailed for seven years at Preston Crown Court on Friday for four offences of collecting terrorist information and three counts of disseminating terrorist publications.

The court heard McGowan was described as “our very own Goebbels”, a reference to Nazi Joseph Goebbels, in a group on messaging app Telegram, where he used the handle Red Church.

The 23-year-old made a heart gesture with his hands to his mother, who was in tears in the public gallery, as he was taken from the dock.

I have no doubt you are a committed, determined and manipulative adherent to extreme right-wing ideology and you are prepared to educate and encourage others in the use of violence to achieve your goal of white supremacy

Sentencing him, Judge Neil Flewitt KC said: “I have no doubt you are a committed, determined and manipulative adherent to extreme right-wing ideology and you are prepared to educate and encourage others in the use of violence to achieve your goal of white supremacy.”

Joe Allman, prosecuting, told the court an undercover officer gained access to the Telegram group used by McGowan and between six to 12 others in August 2020.

He said: “The messages make it clear the group considered they were, or at least were in the process of forming, an active far-right cell.

“They actively discussed digging a tunnel as a base for operations, where that might be located and how it should be constructed.

“Mr McGowan suggested the Lake District for what he called its extensive woodland.”

He said McGowan also suggested they survey the national park for “phase one” of the operation.

The court heard McGowan was part of Telegram group The Hand and then Exiled393 UK.

They actively discussed digging a tunnel as a base for operations, where that might be located and how it should be constructed

Other members included Matthew Cronjager, who was jailed in 2021 for plotting to shoot an Asian friend because he slept with “white chicks”.

Mr Allman said McGowan was “chief propagandist” in the group, which considered itself a para-military unit and shared views which were antisemitic, anti-muslim, misogynistic and showed extreme homophobia.

The court heard another of the themes in the group was the suggestion that “non-white” people were inferior and needed to be exterminated.

McGowan shared documents which included information about fighting techniques, instructions on manufacturing ammunition and tactics for guerilla warfare, Mr Allman said.

In March 2021 his home in Hinnings Road was searched and a mobile phone and USB stick were recovered.

Mr Allman said a number of other documents were found by officers on the Telegram app on his phone, including a “white resistance manual”, with instructions on how to build a pipe bomb, and a manual on how to manufacture a viable firearm.

The court heard in November 2020 the group discussed setting up a PayPal account to pool money for things they might need and agreed getting 3D printers to make “art”, a phrase used for firearms, was a long-term aim.

George Payne, defending, said McGowan had written a letter to the court in which he said he was “truly sorry” for the offences and had become “embroiled in a murky world that was fuelled by hate and suspicion of the other”.

McGowan, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and has no previous convictions, cried in the dock during parts of his mitigation.

Mr Payne said his parents, who were both in court, had also written a letter, expressing their belief he was “at heart a good person” and had shown genuine remorse.

McGowan pleaded not guilty to two further counts of disseminating terrorist publications which were ordered to lie on the file.

Evening Standard

Shane Fletcher wrote that the massacre would be the "most exciting day" of his life

Shane Fletcher wrote that the massacre would be the “most exciting day” of his life

A man has been convicted of plotting a mass murder in his home town.

Shane Fletcher planned to attack the annual Uppies and Downies football event in Workington, Cumbria, when thousands of people would be lining the streets.

Manchester Crown Court heard the 21-year-old had bomb-making manuals and tried to solicit a friend to take part.

He will be sentenced on 14 March once a psychiatric report has been prepared.

The court was told he wanted to emulate Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 12 students and one teacher at their school in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999 before killing themselves.

Fletcher had spoken of his hatred of Workington and of getting a van and “ploughing down” people in revenge for years of being bullied.

He was arrested at his Wastwater Avenue home on 10 March, days after his probation officer contacted police.

The officer warned them Fletcher had said the only things preventing him from carrying out mass murder were a lack of cash and access to weapons.

Officers found a diary under his sofa which contained written instructions on how to make a bomb and improvised napalm, along with his mobile phone which contained an image of the Columbine killers lying dead on the ground.

Numerous diary entries highlighted his anger, with one which read: “On the 4th April Workington will be oblitrated (sic), everything and everyone will be destroyed.

“I will show no mercy killing you so called humans I will be doing it with a smirk on my face.”

Facebook messages were recovered which showed Fletcher attempting to persuade his “only friend”, Kyle Dixon, to take part in the attack.

Fletcher did not give evidence in his defence but his barrister, Simon Csoka QC, said he was a lonely attention-seeker who was fully aware his comments to his probation officer would be passed to police.

He argued the Facebook chats with Mr Dixon were “stupid and idiotic” conversations between two young men which were “a world away from these fanciful theories about the Columbine massacre”.

He had been seeing the Probation Service since April 2017 following his release on licence from a jail sentence.

The jury found him guilty of one count of soliciting to murder and two counts of collecting or making a record of information useful for terrorism purposes.

BBC News