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National Action terror plot: How once-ridiculed BNP Youth leader planned neo-Nazi machete attack

Far-right activists 'will always be looking for another sad, twisted bedroom loner', expert warns

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 18 July 2018 22:01 BST
(Hope Not Hate)

“The Jew has declared war on our people and we should – and in time we will – return the favour,” vowed Jack Renshaw in 2014.

A teenager at the time, he wrote on his blog that Jewish people and the “traitors used as their puppets” should be killed, adding: “This isn’t a threat, but a promise.”

Three years later, he attempted to fulfil his vow by murdering his local Labour MP, Rosie Cooper, and a police officer who investigated him for sexually grooming a child.

​Renshaw had bought a machete online – marketed as “19 inches of unprecedented piercing and slashing power at a bargain price” – researched his targets’ movements and how long it would take for someone to die after having their throat slit.

Police said he was in the “advanced stages” of preparations for an atrocity where he also hoped to take hostages at a local pub.

Renshaw admitted the plot, while fellow neo-Nazis Christopher Lythgoe and Matthew Hankinson were jailed for terror offences on Wednesday.

The Old Bailey heard that the defendants wanted to achieve a “white Britain by any means necessary” and attempted to convert others to their violent cause with rallies, leafleting and online propaganda.

Renshaw was already known for virulent racism as an English Defence League (EDL) supporter and the former leader of the British National Party’s youth wing.

In 2014, he was ridiculed after making the national news for lamenting that he would have to disown his dog in the belief it was gay.

Jack Renshaw was ridiculed in 2014 for a post made as BNP Youth leader where he voiced fears his dog was gay (EDL News/Twitter)

A self-confessed loner, Renshaw was kicked out of Manchester Metropolitan University for his views and became isolated from his fellow racists in the BNP.

He finally found his band of brothers in National Action, a neo-Nazi group whose aims were so violent that it became the first far-right group to be banned by the British government.

Now the sickening sentiments Renshaw had been voicing on his since-removed social media and blog could be unleashed at real-world marches.

Speaking under his pseudonym Jack Albion at a rally in Blackpool in April 2016, he called for counter-protesters to be put “in the chambers” and called Nazism “nature’s politics”.

“The refugee problem is part of a bigger problem, it’s a symptom of a disease,” he added. “That disease is international Jewry. In World War Two we took the wrong side … National Socialists there to remove Jewry from Europe once and for all. Instead we let these parasites live among us.”

National Action held a race war to be not only inevitable but desirable, to cleanse Britain from “inferior” races and the “degenerates” who support them.

Renshaw and his co-defendants prepared at a gym in Warrington, forest training camps and their own makeshift headquarters on a secluded industrial estate.

A converted warehouse allegedly used as base by National Action members in Warrington, Cheshire (Hope Not Hate)

Asked what groups they were against, defector Robbie Mullen told the Old Bailey: “Basically everyone ... Jews, blacks, Asians, every non-white race.”

Renshaw was a member of the north-west faction headed by Lythgoe, who assured members that they were merely “shedding one skin for another” after the government’s proscription in December 2016.

Matthew Collins, a Hope Not Hate researcher who was Mr Mullen’s point of contact, described the group as “very lonely boys, not very popular”.

“You put them together and they were obsessed with sex, violence and genocide,” he told The Independent.

“Mr Mullen was passing us group messages about raping people and murdering people – that’s not your average group of football or gaming mates, these are people who were absolutely obsessed.”

The informer told how members would meet at their makeshift base and at the Friar Penketh in Warrington, where Renshaw later revealed his plot, and other pubs in north-west England.

Lythgoe declared himself national leader of the terrorist group, while Hankinson, of Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside, organised security and gave a speech calling for Nazis to “split the people into two groups, the racially loyal nationalists and the traitors”.

Members communicated via the encrypted Tutanota email service and Wire messaging app, using pseudonyms in an attempt to cover their tracks.

Rather than claiming to oppose Isis-inspired terror attacks, they took notes.

The group visited Manchester following the arena bombing, while Renshaw described himself as a white jihadi and posed for pictures performing a hand gesture that has become associated with Islamist militants.

Mr Mullen, who exposed Renshaw’s terror plot, said National Action’s activities continued undisturbed after being banned, telling the court meetings were held “in the same place, the same people, the same purpose”.

While National Action members in other parts of the country were being arrested en masse for hate crimes and terror offences, the north-west cell remained free to further their aims until Renshaw was arrested on 11 January 2017.

He was detained on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred in speeches made in Blackpool and at a meeting of the far-right Yorkshire Forum, then released under investigation.

But police who seized and analysed Renshaw’s phone found evidence of child sexual grooming, and Renshaw was arrested for a second time on 19 May 2017.

He was bailed yet again and started concocting his plot to murder Ms Cooper and one of the police officers investigating him.

On 1 July last year, he told National Action members meeting in Warrington that he would murder the Labour MP and then take hostages in a pub.

When police arrived he would demand to speak to DC Victoria Henderson, then kill her and commit “suicide by cop” by pretending to have a suicide vest on.

A demonstration joined by National Action members in Darlington in November 2016 (Hope Not Hate)

One of the National Action members listening was Mr Mullen, who was trying to find a way out of the organisation and had started passing information to the counter-extremism group Hope Not Hate months before.

After he raised the alarm with campaigners, they passed the message to Labour MP Ruth Smeeth and police swooped to detain Renshaw and protect his targets.

Mr Collins said the ex-neo-Nazi was “certain they were weeks or months away from a terror attack” even without Renshaw’s plot.

“He did the right thing and we did the right thing,” he told The Independent. “National Action didn’t resemble a neo-Nazi group we had ever seen before, it almost became a terrorist group for the sake of terrorism.

“It was all about genocide, death, rape … They got away with it for years and years.

“Authorities didn’t take it seriously, they thought they could stop it because they were a bunch of silly little white kids.”

A jury deliberated for 20 hours to find Lythgoe guilty of membership of National Action but cleared him of involvement in the terror plot, which he was alleged to have approved by telling Renshaw not to “f*** it up”.

Jailing the 32-year-old for eight years, Mr Justice Jay said he “did nothing to stop or discourage” the plot to kill Ms Cooper, adding: “You are a fully-fledged neo-Nazi complete with concomitant, deep-seated racism and antisemitism.”

The judge described National Action as having a “truly evil and dystopian vision” of waging a race war and said that without Lythgoe’s obsessive determination it would have “withered and died on the vine”.

Garron Helm at a National Action demonstration before the organisation was banned as a terrorist group (Hope Not Hate)

“Fortunately ... the truly evil and dystopian vision I am describing could never have been achieved through the activities of National Action, a very small group operating at the very periphery of far-right wing extremism.

“The real risk to society inheres instead in the carrying out of isolated acts of terror inspired by the perverted ideology I have been describing,” Mr Jay said.

Hankinson, 24, of Newton-le-Willows in Merseyside, was also found guilty of being a prominent member of the terrorist group and was jailed for six years.

The Old Bailey jury acquitted Garron Helm, 24, of Seaforth in Merseyside, of being a member of National Action after it was made a proscribed organisation.

It failed to reach verdicts on Renshaw, Andrew Clarke, 33, and Michal Trubini, 35, from Warrington, for the same charge.

National Action had a relatively small and tightly-controlled membership compared to other far-right groups, peaking at around 120 members who attended its national conference before proscription.

Mr Collins warned that while dozens of alleged National Action members have been prosecuted for varying criminal offences, several followers are still at large and the group has “become an ideology”.

“They’re still communicating with each other but they’re absolutely terrified – some have gone to Ukraine or left the country,” he said.

“So far there have been four or five new incarnations and we will keep seeing that for a long time until they tire themselves out.

“They are in the main cowards and they will always be looking for another sad, twisted bedroom loner.”

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