National Action terror plot: Labour MP Rosie Cooper thanks defected neo-Nazi for 'saving her life' by revealing machete plot

Informant Robbie Mullen alerted counter-extremism campaigners to terrorist Jack Renshaw's plans 

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Wednesday 18 July 2018 21:49
Rosie Cooper, the Labour MP for West Lancashire, was the target of a terror plot by neo-Nazi Jack Renshaw
Rosie Cooper, the Labour MP for West Lancashire, was the target of a terror plot by neo-Nazi Jack Renshaw

An MP has thanked a former neo-Nazi for saving her life after he exposed a terror plot to murder her with a machete.

Police had no intelligence that a National Action member was preparing to kill Rosie Cooper until one of his fellow extremists sounded the alarm to a campaign group.

Hope Not Hate passed the information on to her fellow Labour MP Ruth Smeeth, its former chair and plotter Jack Renshaw was later arrested.

The 23-year-old had already bought a 19ins-long machete, which investigators found stashed in an airing cupboard, and had researched his targets’ movements.

Ms Cooper, the Labour MP for West Lancashire, said: “I think it’s awful that any public servant - teacher, nurse, doctor, police, MP - should be targeted and threatened with violence simply because of the job they do. To that end, I’d like to thank Robbie Mullen whose information saved my life.

“I’d also like to thank Lancashire and Merseyside Police and the counterterrorism police who have supported me greatly, and who have kept me, my staff and the general public safe.”

Jack Renshaw admitted plotting to kill his local Labour MP with a machete

Mr Mullen had been in contact with Hope Not Hate for several months as he tried to find a way out of the terrorist organisation, which went underground after a government ban.

His fears that its repulsive rhetoric against Jews, non-whites and “race traitors” would tip over into bloody action were confirmed when the group met in a Warrington pub on 1 July last year.

Renshaw was riled up after being arrested on suspicion of sexually grooming a child and for stirring up racial hatred with two of his speeches in Blackpool and Leeds.

Seeking revenge on both the police and “establishment”, he told fellow fanatics of a plot to kill both Ms Cooper and a female officer who had investigated him.

Mr Mullen said Renshaw felt officers were “destroying his life and trying to make it sound like he was a paedophile”.

London's Old Bailey heard: “Renshaw stated that if he was charged, he was going to kill Rosie Cooper, his local MP. He explained his plan was then to take some people hostage in a pub and when the police arrived he would demand to speak to DC Victoria Henderson.

“When the officer arrived, he would kill her. Renshaw said that after he had killed Ms Henderson he would then commit ‘suicide by cop’ by pretending to have a suicide vest on.”

Prosecutors said the would-be terrorist intended to make a “white jihad” video stating that the attack was carried out in the name of National Action that would be released after his death.

A fellow National Action member, Matthew Hankinson, said Renshaw should target a synagogue – even if there were children inside – because “all Jews are the same, they’re all vermin”.

A demonstration joined by National Action members in Darlington in November 2016

During the conversation, Renshaw said that he had purchased a machete to use in the attack, which was found days later hidden in a cupboard at a home where he was staying in Skelmersdale.

After stating his intentions, he wrote a series of ominous Facebook posts saying he was “past caring” and “it will all be over soon”.

One comment said: “I’ll laugh last but it may not be for the longest."

Matthew Collins, the Hope Not Hate researcher who was contacted by Mr Mullen, said police “knew absolutely nothing” of the plot.

“They didn’t monitor them [after the ban on National Action],” he told The Independent. “They thought that because they were a bunch of skinny little white boys that when they banned them they would go to bed like naughty children. But they had an ideology that developed like a sickness, they developed a lust for violence and an attack was inevitable.”

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

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

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

Christopher Lythgoe, the alleged leader of National Action's north-west faction

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”.

“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.”

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.

Ms Cooper, who was in court for the verdicts, later thanked the Prime Minister, Jeremy Corbyn and "every single member of this house for the kindness they have shown me" in an emotional address to parliament.

Theresa May replied: “Can I first of all say how very good it is to see her in her place and I know from the response that is a view that is shared across the whole of this house.”

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said he was "glad these vile extremists are behind bars where they belong."

He added: “National Action is a racist, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic and homophobic organisation which stirs up hatred and promotes violence. We proscribed in 2016 when it crossed the line from extremism in to terrorism. The government is determined to combat terrorism of all kinds - and our counter-terrorism and extremism strategies tackle the scourge of the far right head-on.”

The plot was mounted a year after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox by neo-Nazi Thomas Mair.

He was not a member of National Action but the group celebrated him as a hero and inspiration, with one of its factions tweeting: “Only 649 MPs to go.”

Another National Action follower, Zack Davies, tried to behead a Sikh man in Tesco because he “looked Asian”, while teenage neo-Nazi Jack Coulson made a pipe bomb and Ethan Stables planned a massacre at an LGBT event in Cumbria.

Police defended the decision to bail Renshaw after his initial arrest on suspicion of child grooming and inciting racial hatred and said Ms Cooper and DC Henderson were given protection “once the plan was understood”.

Detective Superintendent Will Chatterton, head of investigations for Counterterror Policing North West told The Independent Renshaw was “in the advanced stages of seeking” to commit the attack.

Asked whether police would have detected the plot before it was too late without Mr Mullen’s intelligence, he said: “That is difficult to definitively answer but certainly the contribution to this investigation by the informant and by Hope Not Hate, the organisation that supported him, was very significant.

“The evidence that he bravely put forward without doubt helped to progress the investigation and make the prosecution a successful one.”

Det Supt Chatterton said the defendants, who formed the north-west branch of National Action, “presented a significant threat” with their extreme right-wing ideology and lust for violence.

“We are acutely aware that just by proscribing an organisation doesn’t eradicate the underlying ideology that these people espouse,” he added. “Counterterror policing is intent on disrupting people with a similar mindset and will robustly do so.”

The officer said investigators do not differentiate between different types of extremists, adding: “In recent times our volume has been centred on Islamist extremism but I think that’s because of the events we’ve seen playing out in theatre abroad, in Syria etc, but we are acutely aware of the risk and threat that exists around extreme right-wing ideologies.”