Tag Archives: Workington

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

Self-declared white supremacist Leslie Blaney told police ‘non-white English speaking people should leave England and have no part here’

A white supremacist who told a young mother wearing a headscarf to “get back to your own country where you belong” has been convicted of racially aggravated harassment.

Leslie Blaney, 65, “unleashed a torrent of racial abuse” at the victim as she walked in the street with her two young children in Workington, Cumbria.

He was arrested after two passers-by overheard him shouting “various racial insults” and flagged down a passing police van in Murray Road on 1 July, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

During a police interview, Blaney described himself as a white supremacist and said he believed all “non-white English speaking people should leave England and have no part here”.

Asked whether he thought his behaviour was acceptable, he answered: “To me it is.”

Blaney pleaded guilty to racially aggravated behaviour with intent to cause harassment, alarm and distress at Workington Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

Pamela Fee, senior crown prosecutor for northwest England, said: “Leslie Blaney, a self-declared white supremacist, unleashed a torrent of racial abuse at a young mother as she walked down a busy street with her young children, simply because she was wearing a headscarf.

“Spouting such poisonous views in a public place is not acceptable in today’s society and we will continue to bring before the courts those who commit hate crime offences.”

She commended the passers-by who flagged down police, and who were also verbally abused by Blaney after challenging him over the abuse.

Ms Fee said: “Had it not been for their courage and support, the victim would have walked away and Blaney would never had been brought to justice for his deplorable actions.

“I would encourage anyone who hears racist abuse or sees a repeated pattern of racist behaviour to come forward to report it regardless of how minor an incident may initially appear.”

Blaney was sentenced to a 10-week community order with a curfew and ordered to pay £85 costs and a £90 victim surcharge.

His conviction comes after Donald Trump used similar language in a racist attack on four US congresswomen. The president told Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib to “go back” to the “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came”.

Authorities have since been urged to step up protections for Democrat representatives, all of whom are US citizens and three of whom were born in the country.

The Independent

Unemployed ‘loner’ had photographed himself performing Nazi salutes and spewed bile about ‘degenerates’

Fletcher was convicted of planning a killing spree in Workington

Fletcher was convicted of planning a killing spree in Workington

A white supremacist who plotted a massacre in his Cumbrian hometown has been jailed for nine years.

Shane Fletcher, 21, claimed his plans to kill members of the public at a football match in Workington was merely a fantasy.

But Manchester Crown Court heard he had attempted to buy gas canisters for an explosive van attack, and compiled instructions on making pipe bombs and “improvised napalm”.

Fletcher wrote in a journal that on 4 April 2018 Workington would be obliterated – “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.”

Judge Patrick Field QC jailed Fletcher, of Wastwater Avenue, Workington, to nine years for soliciting to murder, over trying to convince his only friend to commit the massacre with him.

Fletcher was also convicted of collecting information useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism.

He must serve at least two thirds of his custodial term and will be subject to an extended licence period of four years if the Parole Board considers him safe for release.

The self-described “loner” voiced his white supremacist beliefs and hatred for the people of Workington, who he blamed for school bullying and his inability to get a job, to a probation officer.

Fletcher was being monitored after a 32-month sentence for barricading himself inside a flat and setting it on fire after a row with his brother about his racist views.

He was referred to the government’s Prevent counter-extremism scheme nine months before he was arrested, after telling the officer he dreamed about “shooting up a mosque”, but refused to engage with the programme.

But he was not detained until March 2018, after he started detailing preparations for an attack at the “Uppies and Downies” – a three-stage football match held on the streets of Workington on and around Easter of each year.

Fletcher spoke of how easy it would be drive a van into people into the crowds and attempted to buy gas canisters, saying the only bar to his massacre was a lack of money and weapons.

A journal found under his sofa contained written instructions on how to make a pipe bomb and improvised napalm, while one entry read: “On the 4th April [2018] Workington will be oblitrated [sic], everything and everyone will be destroyed.”

Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford told the court that despite Fletcher’s extremist beliefs, his “motive was not terrorism but hatred and a desire for revenge”.

“In part, his hatred was borne of his racist belief that people who were Jewish and not white were responsible for his inability to find work and to make any kind of a meaningful life for himself,” he added.

“However, the main source of Fletcher’s hatred was that he had or felt that he had been bullied throughout his teen years and was looked down on and victimised by the people of Workington where he had grown up.

“This hatred was flamed by his own feelings of worthlessness, inadequacy and inability arising from his inability to find work or make any kind of meaningful life or relationships for himself.”

Fletcher’s mobile phone contained photos of him performing Nazi salutes and there were images of the Ku Klux Klan on his iPad.

In police interviews he described himself as a “big fan of Hitler”, after writing in a journal about his hatred of “degenerates” from different religious and ethnic groups, women and gay people.

The phone also contained images of the Columbine High School killers, who he idolised along with Cumbrian mass shooter Derrick Bird and Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof, lying dead on the ground.

He told his probation worker and police that he had started watching YouTube videos about serial killers and mass shootings since the age of 13 because he “had not gone out much”, and was excited by violence.

Lee Ingham, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s counterterrorism division, said: “Like the mass murderers he admired, Shane Fletcher wanted to achieve notoriety by committing a killing spree of his own.

“The court found this hate-consumed man to be a danger to the public and it is right he has been sentenced today to a lengthy spell in prison.”​

Fletcher unsuccessfully tried to recruit a friend to join him in the attack after they shared “snuff” videos of murders and mass shootings in Facebook messages.

In one, he told his friend that he had considered killing himself but then decided to go on a “massive killing spree” and the pair discussed methods and weapons, before his friend dropped out.

In his journal, Fletcher wrote about his self-loathing and called himself a “waste of space” and “failed human” who had let his mother down.

“I’m a freak basically have no friends have no job and have no future, been bullied most of my teen years,” he wrote. “I wanna end it all quick while taking others with me.”

Fletcher graphically detailed his desire to murder school bullies and make them “bow to my greatness and die”.

After being arrested, Fletcher denied he was planning a massacre and said his comments and writings were only fantasies from a “lonely attention seeker”. But prosecutors said his documented efforts to procure gas canisters proved his intentions were real.

In January last year, he wrote about efforts to buy or steal propane canisters for “bombs”, and had instructions to make viable pipe bombs and homemade napalm.

A diary entry written weeks before the planned atrocity read: “I have started this diary counting down the days to WM [Workington massacre] witch [sic] will be the most exciting day of my life I plan.”

Mr Ingham said: “Fletcher tried to claim his actions were nothing more than a foolish fantasy but the prosecution proved the instructions for the explosives contained in his diary were viable and could have caused catastrophic damage had they ever been acted upon.”

The Independent

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