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Boys 'planned Columbine anniversary massacre'

Court told teenagers intended killing spree at Manchester school

Two teenagers planned to blow up a shopping centre and then set out on a killing spree at their Manchester school on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine School massacre, a court heard yesterday.

Matthew Swift, now 18, and Ross McKnight, 16, idolised Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the Americans who murdered 12 students and one teacher at their Colorado school and injured 21 others before taking their own lives.

Notes found after their arrest revealed that the friends had drawn up plans to detonate an improvised explosive device at a shopping centre in north Manchester and embark upon a killing spree at Audenshaw High School, where Mr McKnight was still a pupil, before killing themselves, Manchester Crown Court heard. "They had discussed, they had fantasised and eventually they had agreed to convert their fantasies into reality," said Peter Wright QC, for the prosecution.

The school friends sat impassively in the dock while listening to the prosecution detail the evidence against them, which included a chilling diary belonging to Mr McKnight. He wrote in November 2007: "In about one and a half years I will fucking kill them with a great big smile on my face."

The diary continued: "I can't fucking wait to do it now, killing the shitheads off, one by one. The best thing is walking around kicking the heads as I walk past, just laughing, ha, ha, ha. We will walk into school and at the end of it no one will walk out alive... after we have finished we will have to kill ourselves there and then."

Mr Wright said the teenagers had also been fascinated by the Oklahoma City bombings carried out by Timothy McVeigh in April 2005, which resulted in the deaths of 168 people. Mr McKnight wrote an essay about the event while at school, the jury heard.

"Little did the school appreciate that he had more than an academic interest," Mr Wright said. Mr McKnight also wrote an essay about a massacre at a school entitled 'Equations of the Mind', which earned him a C grade, the jury heard. After police arrested Mr Swift, officers searched his house and found a manual called The Anarchists Cookbook, which detailed bomb-making techniques, and a safe containing plans of the school, Mr Swift's notes, instructions on using acetone peroxide as a detonator and a tin of table tennis balls (which, the jury heard, could be made into an explosive material).

"Fuck the system or the system will fuck you," Mr Swift wrote. Another entry read: "Audenshaw High will be no more because unlike Columbine my pipe bombs will actually fucking explode and I will walk from classroom to classroom killing the fuck out of everybody, then maybe people will learn," and "Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold will rise again."

Mr Wright told the jury they might conclude that "Matthew Swift is the more articulate" and exerted a "degree of influence" over Mr McKnight, "but in due course they were each fully aware of the terrible act they planned and they were prepared, notwithstanding that fact, to carry it out".

Both defendants deny one count of conspiracy to commit murder and one count of conspiracy to cause explosions between 11 November 2007 and 15 March this year. The trial continues.