A neo-Nazi has been convicted of planning a terror attack at a gay pride event after posting violent homophobic rants online.
Armed police stopped Ethan Stables as he was travelling to the celebration at a pub in Cumbria, finding weapons including a machete and axe at his home.
They had been tipped off by a member of a far-right Facebook group who saw the unemployed 20-year-old post a message saying he was “going to war” and planned to “slaughter every single one of the gay bastards”.
The woman, who was added to the chat by Stables and did not support his views, phoned police and posted screengrabs of his messages on social media warning local people not to go to the pub.
“I’ve had enough, I don’t want to live in a gay world and I sure as hell don’t want my children living in one,” Stables wrote in the “National Socialists Union standing against the New World Order” group.
“What happened to our traditional qualities? They’re f***ing ruined. I don’t care if I die, I’m fighting for what I believe in and that is the future of my country, my folk and my race.”
Stables had already posted a photo of himself holding a machete and another taken from outside the The New Empire pub in Barrow showing it flying rainbow flags in preparation for the event.
The venue was surrounded by armed police as officers spotted Stables walking towards his target from his flat on the evening of 23 June.
Stables was initially arrested on suspicion of making threats to kill but the charge was later changed to preparing a terrorist act, with the defendant describing himself as a “nationalist” on Facebook and hitting out at the UK’s “totalitarian regime”.
Leeds Crown Court heard he had become fascinated with Nazi ideology by September 2016, being shown footage of Stables saying “gays look nicer on fire” while burning a rainbow flag.
Prosecutor Jonathan Sandiford said Stables espoused homophobic, racist and Nazi views online, taking a selfie with a swastika flag hanging on his bedroom wall.
The defendant searched online for information on joining neo-Nazi groups Combat 18 and National Action – a banned terrorist organisation – while researching how to prepare for a “race war”.
The jury was told Stables was interested in the Columbine High School massacre and viewed graphic footage of terror attacks, torture, massacres, executions and extreme violence.
Evidence presented in court showed he made a series of Google searches on a prospective attack, including one reading “I want to go on a killing spree” and another on “how to be a terrorist”.
Police examination of his devices showed he also searched “how to make chemical poison”, “what is prison like for a murderer” and “do you get haircuts in prison”.
Stables had also researched how to make a bomb at home, with investigators finding a collection of match heads in his flat.
Footage taken by a police officer searching the property showed a huge Nazi flag hung on a wall by Stables’ bed, next to a dresser strewn with weapons including the axe and knives, alongside tools.
His rifle was leaning against a bookcase and the machete was discovered under a coffee table.
While swapping messages with fellow extremists, he blamed the fact that he was unemployed on “faggots, n******, spastics” and the Equalities Act. Stables also expressed hatred of Muslims and Jews, claiming in a WhatsApp message a month before his arrest: “My country is being raped. I might just become a skinhead and kill people.”
Stables denied preparing terrorist acts and making threats to kill, claiming he was only venting his anger online.
The defendant, who told the court he is bisexual and has an autism spectrum condition, said he was not carrying out reconnaissance of The New Empire when he was arrested.
Prosecutors said he became aware the venue was to host a LGBT+ pride night and travelled there to “take photographs [and do] reconnaissance of that public house with a view to launching an attack later that evening”.
Defending Stables, barrister Patrick Upward QC said he was not a white supremacist but a “white fantasist”, describing him as “lonely and inadequate”.
He told the jury Stables would sit at night on a wall outside the local jobcentre for six hours at a time as he had no wi-fi at his home, asking: “How can that be regarded as normal?”
Footage also showed Stables, who was expelled from school after putting another pupil in a headlock and later thrown out of his family home, going into the local library to use public computers.
Stables, of Egerton Court in Barrow, claimed he was a liberal and adopted a right-wing persona to fit in with people he chatted to online.
His mother told the court he became radicalised after a trip to Germany to see a young woman, while Stables said he had been “brainwashed” by right-wing extremists he met while living in hostels.
Judge Peter Collier QC said he would sentence Stables on Wednesday, adding: “I do need to give this a lot of careful thought to come to an appropriate sentence.”
The verdict came after another far-right extremist, Darren Osborne, was jailed for life for launching the Finsbury Park terror attack.
The father of our killed one man and injured several others when he ploughed a van into Muslim worshippers leaving Ramadan prayers in June.
Campaigners said the latest case showed the continued focus on LGBT+ targets by elements of the far right, following neo-Nazi David Copeland’s bombing at a gay-friendly pub in Soho in 1999.
Sabby Dhalu, joint secretary of Unite Against Fascism, said: “If Stables hadn’t been revealed by another far-right activist concerning his intentions, another terrorist atrocity may have happened.
“It is clear from his online threats to kill and maim that Stables is a dangerous neo-Nazi … much attention has been focused on Islamist terror. Much greater focus must be made on the far right, given the propensity of terror cases involving individuals and groups like the banned National Action.”
Security services have warned of an increasing threat from both Islamists and the far right as the UK’s terror threat level stands at “severe”, meaning further attacks are highly likely.
The number of white people among a record number of terror suspects being arrested in the UK has risen dramatically over the past year, making up a third of the total.
The spike was partly be accounted for by a series of crackdowns on National Action, which has several alleged members due in court. Among them are British soldiers accused of joining the organisation – which was banned in December 2016 – and a man who allegedly plotted to murder a Labour MP with a machete.
In the wake of Osborne’s convictions, Amber Rudd said the Government would soon be publishing a new counter-terrorism strategy setting out its approach to tackling anyone who seeks to attack Britain, its values and way of life. “This Government will continue to be unwavering in our resolve to combat all forms of terrorism, whatever the underlying motivation,” the Home Secretary added.
Additional reporting by PA