World Incidents

White supremacist who idolised Columbine killers convicting of plotting Workington van attack massacre

A white supremacist who idolised the Columbine High School shooters has been convicted of planning a killing spree in his Cumbria home town.

Shane Fletcher, 21, from Workington, wanted to emulate Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who murdered 12 students and one teacher at their school in Colorado in 1999.

He targeted a medieval-style football match, the Uppies and Downies, which is played and watched by thousands of people in the streets each Easter.

Fletcher had spoken of his hatred of Workington and how easy it would be to obtain a van and plough into crowds, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford said the planned attack was motivated by a “desire for revenge,” particularly against Jewish and non-white people, who he saw as responsible “for his inability to find work and to make any kind of a meaningful life for himself”.

Fletcher was arrested on 10 March last year, days after his probation officer contacted police. Fletcher had told him only a lack of cash and access to weapons prevented him carrying out mass murder.

Police found a diary under his sofa which contained written instructions on how to make a pipe bomb and improvised napalm. On his mobile phone there was an image of the Columbine killers lying dead on the ground after taking their own lives.

The diary, discovered by officers at Fletcher’s family home in Wastwater Avenue, also contained numerous entries in which he wrote of his excitement about his planned massacre.

One entry 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 you dirty canceras (sic) pricks.”

Police also recovered Facebook messages in which Fletcher and tried to persuade his “only friend” Kyle Dixon to join him in the murderous attack.

Fletcher told him he had thought about killing others and then taking his own life since the age of 15. The pair would be “like Eric and Dylan apart from they shot in a school,” he wrote.

Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford told the jury Mr Dixon was a young man with “significant problems”, including a brain injury, and that his initial enthusiasm for the attack petered out.

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

He did not give evidence during the trial but his barrister, Simon Csoka, said Fletcher was a lonely attention-seeker who was fully aware police would be alerted to his comments about the Uppies and Downies.

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”.

The court heard that, nine months before his arrest, Fletcher had been referred to the government’s counter-terror programme Prevent after telling probation officer he was a risk to minorities and had dreamt of carrying out a shooting spree at a mosque.

The self-professed white supremacist rejected an offer to meet a former member of extremist group Combat 18, who he labelled “race traitors”, and was told he would continue to be monitored by Prevent officers.

He had been seeing the probation service since April 2017 following his release on licence from prison.

Prosecutors said Fletcher had an unhealthy interest in mass murderers and serial killers including West Cumbria gunman Derrick Bird, who killed 12 people during a shooting spree in 2010. Fletcher’s obsession eventually developed into a desire to target his home town, the court heard.

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