Teenagers who plotted Columbine-style massacre at Yorkshire school jailed for total of 22 years

'F***, I hate my school. I will obliterate it. I will kill everyone,' 14-year-old Thomas Wyllie wrote. 'I have a plan, a great f***ing plan'

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 20 July 2018 16:30 BST
Thomas Wyllie and Alex Bolland, both 15, were jailed for planning a Columbine-style attack at their school in Yorkshire
Thomas Wyllie and Alex Bolland, both 15, were jailed for planning a Columbine-style attack at their school in Yorkshire

Two boys who planned a Columbine-style massacre at their Yorkshire school have been jailed for a combined total of 22 years.

Thomas Wyllie and Alex Bolland, who were just 14 at the time, drew up a hit-list of targets including fellow pupils and teachers to murder in Northallerton.

Sentencing the pair at Leeds Crown Court, Justice Cheema-Grubb said their plan “was not wishful-thinking or fantasy, it was a real plot”.

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“You are both 15 years old and you were only 14 last year when you planned to murder teachers and pupils at your school in North Yorkshire by shooting them in a re-enactment of the Columbine massacre,” she added.

“It was a firm plan with specific targets in mind as well as a plan to make indiscriminate explosives”.

Justice Cheema-Grubb said the boys had intended to cause “terror on the scale of the school shootings that have been seen in America”.

She jailed lead plotter Wyllie, who was months older than his friend, for 12 years and Bolland for 10 after they were convicted of conspiracy to murder.

The court heard that Wyllie “idolised” Eric Harris, who massacred 13 victims with accomplice Dylan Klebold at Columbine High School in Colorado before turning a gun on himself.

Page from a diary belonging to one of the boys (North East CTU)

Police uncovered a diary where Wyllie espoused “far-right wing ideology” and discussed his motivations for wanting to carry out an attack.

The first page read: “If this is found I have committed one of the worst atrocities in British history or I killed myself.”

He and Bolland started preparing for the attack in May 2017, both downloading a document containing bomb-making instructions.

Days later, Bolland told his friend that he “couldn’t be bothered anymore”. Wyllie replied: “If you’re gonna kill yourself, shoot up the school.”

Leeds Crown Court heard how the teenagers researched weapons online, while the older boy attempted to gain access to a store of seven shotguns at his girlfriend’s house.

“F***, I hate my school. I will obliterate it. I will kill everyone,” he wrote in October last year. “I have a plan, a great f***ing plan.”

The diary said Wyllie would “lay low” in Catterick before murdering his ex-girlfriend’s parents and stealing her father’s guns, the court heard.

A chat between the two boys discussing the plot (North East CTU)

“I’ll make some explosives then well (sic) find a way back to Northallerton and well begin our assault on that f****** school,” it continued. “I just want to kill every single one of you f***ers.

“Everyone is filthy and deserve to be shot, including me. I’ll play the role of god and decide who a (sic) let live and die. Humans are a vile species which needs to die out.”

Officers later searching his hideout discovered a rucksack filled with screws, boards, and a flammable liquid that prosecutors said were components for an explosive device.

Wyllie’s girlfriend, who started dating him in June 2017, claimed he described her as “his Dylan Klebold” and encouraged her to give him access to her father’s shotguns.

After her parents banned the pair from seeing each other, the teenager went to her house dressed like Columbine-killer Harris, wearing a T-shirt daubed with a threat.

He fled carrying a large knife that was later found with the word “Love” written on the blade, and at one point carved his name into the girl’s back.

In evidence, her mother said: “He’s devious and primitive and had quite a lot of power and control over what, at the time, was our vulnerable daughter.”

A rucksack found at a shack used by the boys contained a mask, nails and flammable liquid (North East CTU)

In September, Bolland told a schoolgirl that they were planning to carry out a shooting via Snapchat.

When she asked if he was joking, he responded: “No. No one innocent will die. We promise.”

The next day, he made what the prosecution described as “clear and unvarnished” confessions, firstly to a teacher, and then to police officers.

Giving evidence, the teacher said Bolland claimed his targets were “infecting the gene pool” and that he and his friend were performing a “service to society”.

Police spoke to both plotters separately at home after the incident. The younger one confirmed that they “planned to go into school with a firearm in order to get rid of those who had wronged them” but Wyllie denied everything.

Prosecutors said North Yorkshire Police did “not respond adequately” to the threat until a specialist counter-terror team took over the investigation a month later.

After the boys were convicted in May, assistant chief constable Phil Cain admitted that the initial response “did not meet those standards that are expected of us” and said the case had been reviewed.

Both boys had denied the charges, with Bolland claiming his friend “was serious about the mass killing”, whereas he was not, but Wyllie maintaining that “no-one was serious about any of it”.

Detective Chief Superintendent Martin Snowden, head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, said: “Whatever their motivation, the intent of the defendants and the direction of their actions, placed others at risk.

”Thankfully, we’ll never know if they’d have followed through with their plan.“

Mr Snowden warned that young people were “vulnerable to external influences, both in the real world and online”.

“While these influences are very difficult to control, it’s important we’re alive to the display of attitudes or behaviour which concern us and have the confidence to report them,” he added.

“On this occasion, those who came forward may ultimately have saved lives.”

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