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David Parnham: White supremacist behind ‘Punish a Muslim Day’ responsible for years of malicious letter campaigns

Lincoln man had sent hoax letters to targets including Queen, prime minister and MPs

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Tuesday 03 September 2019 17:40 BST
The letters sparked widespread safety fears in March 2018
The letters sparked widespread safety fears in March 2018 (AP)

The white supremacist behind the “Punish a Muslim Day” campaign had launched waves of malicious letters targeting mosques, politicians and the Queen, a court has heard.

David Parnham, 36, is facing prison after admitting offences including soliciting murder, encouraging crime, bomb and noxious substance hoaxes, and sending letters with intent to cause distress.

The Old Bailey was told that in June 2016, Parnham sent letters containing fake anthrax to targets including then prime minister David Cameron, saying “Allah is great”.

Only 11 letters were delivered, while seven were intercepted at a postal depot in Sheffield and sparked a police investigation.

Four months later, Parnham posted more letters containing white powder to the Queen, Theresa May, bishops and the Home Office.

“The Clowns R Coming 4 You,” they read, in an apparent reference to international reports of “evil clowns” attacking people.

A Chemical Biological Radiological Nuclear (CBRN) response was launched after the packages were received, causing some staff to be quarantined for hours as the substance was tested.

In December 2016, Parnham sent a fan letter to Dylann Roof, a white supremacist terrorist who murdered nine black victims at a church in Charleston, South Carolina.

He told Roof: “I just wanted to thank you for opening my eyes. Ever since you carried out what I’d call the ‘cleansing’, I’ve felt differently about what you’d call ‘racial awareness’.”

Parnham wrote: “My main reason for disgust is Muslims. I hate these animals with a passion. I sent letters with white powder to some mosques in London they had to close down parliament because of it.”

A sentencing hearing heard that he sent letters to mosques and Islamic centres around Britain in February 2017, including a drawing of someone being beheaded with a swastika-emblazoned sword.

“You are going to be slaughtered very soon,” the author wrote, before signing off as “Muslim slayer”.

In March 2017, letters were sent to homes around the University of Sheffield campus calling for the extermination of racial and religious minorities. They contained suggestions on how to kill people and an offer to make a donation of £100 to charity for each death.

USA: Church shooting survivor gives emotional statement to Dylann Roof in court

Then in early 2018, a series of typed ”Punish A Muslim Day“ letters were sent out to encourage violence on a date corresponding with Roof’s birthday.

The letters claimed Europe and North America were being “overrun” by Muslims and contained a makeshift scorecard for attacks ranging from pulling off women’s headscarves to acid attacks, torture, bombing a mosque and “butchering” Muslims with guns, knives and vehicles.

The court heard that although no violence was linked to the campaign, it sparked widespread fear in Muslim communities across the UK after being received by politicians including the then home secretary, Sajid Javid.

Lord Hussain, a Liberal Democrat peer, told of his shock at receiving one of the poison letters at his home after it was forwarded from the House of Lords.

“As I read it for the first time I felt total shock at its contents as well as fear, not only for myself but for my family, my home and all other Muslims,” he said in a victim impact statement read out in court.

“I have lived in this country for 47 years and have never before seen or read anything like this.”

Parnham, of St Andrew’s Close in Lincoln, was caught through DNA, handwriting and fingerprints on the letters after an investigation by counterterror police.

When he was arrested in June 2018, he refused to answer any questions

Parnham later pleaded guilty to 15 offences relating to hundreds of letters penned between June 2016 and June 2018.

He has admitted encouraging murder, making hoaxes involving noxious substances and bombs, sending letters with intent to cause distress, and encouraging offences.

The court heard that Parnham claimed he did not remember writing to the Queen.

As he appeared in court for Monday’s hearing, a psychiatrist revealed that the defendant did not regret what he had done and did not consider it “particularly serious”.

Dr Martin Lock said: “He told me if he went to prison it would be one to two years.”

While Parnham was on the autistic spectrum, Dr Lock said he was not psychotic and expressed concern that the defendant had attempted to “mislead” medical professionals.

Another psychiatrist said Parnham was suffering a psychotic illness and had felt “paranoia and suspiciousness”, particularly towards religious groups and prominent individuals.

When Dr Paul Wallang first saw him in December, Parnham was “extremely anxious”, “fearful” and low.

Dr Wallang told the court: “There were very odd ideas and he talked about unusual experiences, some of which were swirling kaleidoscope colours, bed sheets being pulled from him. There were other experiences of chattering voices.”

He conceded it was “possible” that Parnham could attempt to pull the wool over the eyes of professionals.

The psychiatrist recommended a hospital order with restrictions, saying it was important to have the power to recall Parnham to prison for “protection of the public”.

Judge Anthony Leonard QC indicated that he would complete sentencing on Tuesday.

Additional reporting by PA

Update - David Parnham's letter campaigns date back to 2016, not 2007 as previously stated. An error meant the date of one offence targeting mosques was initially reported as 2007, but has been corrected to 2017 following clarification from the Crown Prosecution Service.

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