Plymouth shootings: Police reviewing decision not to declare terror attack as incel link probed

Jake Davison’s online activity and ‘engagement with the incel movement’ key part of investigation

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Monday 16 August 2021 14:55 BST
Jake Davison named as Plymouth shooter

Police are reviewing the decision not to label the Plymouth shootings a terror attack as investigators probe the gunman’s interest in the “incel” movement.

Devon and Cornwall Police said the initial decision that Jake Davison’s killings were not a terrorist incident was made by the National Counter Terrorism Policing Network following a referral from local officers.

“The status of this will be kept under continual review, and a further referral made should new information come to light,” a spokesperson added.

“We are aware of Davison’s interest and engagement with the incel movement and his use of various online platforms, and this forms a key strand within the ongoing police investigation.”

British law defines terrorism as violence that is designed to influence the government or public in order to advance a “political, religious, racial or ideological cause”.

Security agencies are discussing whether to include violence undertaken by supporters of the incel movement – a misogynistic online subculture of people who label themselves “involuntary celibates” – in the definition.

The independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, Jonathan Hall QC, previously said incels would be treated “more seriously” if there were more attacks.

He told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme: “The question is really whether or not the authorities want to treat the incel phenomenon as a terrorist risk. That would involve diverting resources or putting resources into it.

“If we see more of these sorts of attacks, then I have got no doubt that it will be treated more seriously as terrorism.

“It fits rather uneasily into the way the authorities understand ideologies. It seems part of right-wing terrorism but it is not really. In fact, it is quite separate from it.”

The ideology has previously been linked to several massacres in the US, and Davison’s spree – during which he killed five victims and then himself – was the deadliest mass shooting in the UK for more than a decade.

Davison’s online activity suggests he identified as an incel, and that he watched and made videos and posts on related issues.

He wrote hateful messages about his mother while complaining about the state of his life, and also engaged with US politics and gun culture.

Police teams work near the scene on Biddick Drive following the shootings (Getty)

In what appeared to be Davison’s final YouTube video before the shooting, he spoke of being “beaten down” and “defeated by life”.

The 22-year-old launched his murderous spree in the Keyham area of Plymouth on Thursday evening.

He shot his 51-year-old mother Maxine Davison, also known as Maxine Chapman, at a house in Biddick Drive before he went into the street and murdered Sophie Martyn, three, and her father, Lee Martyn, 43.

In the 12-minute attack, Davison then killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park before shooting 66-year-old Kate Shepherd, who later died at Derriford Hospital.

Civic leaders, religious figures, politicians, emergency service workers and the military joined around 200 people outside the Guildhall in Plymouth city centre to hold a minute’s silence on Monday.

As questions were raised over how Davison was able to obtain a firearms licence, the government announced that applicants would now be subject to social media checks.

All police forces in England and Wales are being asked to review their current firearm application processes, as well as to assess whether they need to revisit any existing licences.

An investigation is already under way by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into Davison’s possession of a shotgun and a firearms licence.

It will look at why Devon and Cornwall Police returned Davison’s gun and permit to him last month, after it was removed following an allegation of assault in September last year.

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