A white supremacist loner who planned a mass killing spree in his home town in Cumbria has been jailed for nine years.
Shane Fletcher, 21, from Workington, wanted to emulate the Columbine High School shooters, who murdered 12 students and one teacher at their school in Colorado in 1999 before killing themselves.
His target was a version of a medieval football game, the Uppies and Downies, which sees thousands gather in the streets each Easter to play and spectate.
Fletcher had spoken of his hatred of Workington and how easy it would be to get a van and plough down people, after being bullied in his teenage years.
Passing an extended sentence at Manchester Crown Court, Judge Patrick Field QC told Fletcher it was a “deeply troubling case” in which the defendant was motivated by hatred, revenge and nihilism.
Fletcher must serve at least two thirds of his custodial term and will be subject to an extended licence period of four years if the Parole Board considers him safe to be released.
Classing him as a dangerous offender, the judge noted Fletcher’s obsessions with mass killing spree murderers – including Cumbrian taxi driver Derrick Bird and US church gunman Dylann Roof – along with his hatred of various religious and ethnic groups, women and homosexuals.
In January, Fletcher, of Wastwater Avenue, was found guilty of one count of soliciting to murder and two counts of collecting or making a record of information useful for terrorism purposes.
He received concurrent sentences of three years each for the terrorism offences.
Fletcher was arrested on March 10 last year, days after his probation officer contacted police to say his client had told him the only things preventing him from carrying out the mass murder was a lack of cash and access to weapons.
He had earlier been referred to the Government’s Prevent counter-terror programme after he told the same probation worker he dreamt about “shooting up a mosque”, but Fletcher refused to engage with the programme.
He was on licence at the time for a 32-month sentence imposed in June 2016 for offences of arson with intent to endanger life and battery when he barricaded himself in a flat and set it alight after a row with his brother over his racist views.
Police found a diary under his sofa which contained written instructions on how to make a pipe bomb and improvised napalm, along with his mobile phone which contained an image of the Columbine killers, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, lying dead on the ground.
Also in the diary found at his family home were numerous entries which highlighted Fletcher’s anger.
One entry read: “On the 4th April Workington will be oblitrated (sic), everything and everyone will be destroyed. I will show no mercy killing you so called humans I will be doing it with a smirk on my face you dirty canceras (sic) pricks …I have started this diary counting down the days to WM witch (sic) will be the most exciting day of my life I plan”.
The Crown suggested WM stood for Workington Massacre.
Facebook messages between Fletcher and his “only friend” Kyle Dixon were subsequently recovered which showed the defendant trying to persuade Mr Dixon to join him in the murderous attack.
Fletcher told Mr Dixon he had thought about killing others and then taking his own life since the age of 15 and they were “now like Eric and Dylan apart from they shot in a school”.
The court heard Mr Dixon was a young man with “significant problems” who had suffered a brain injury, and that his initial enthusiasm happily petered out.
On Tuesday, Judge Field told Fletcher: “The jury rejected your defence that your exchanges with Mr Dixon were no more than fantasy and the workings of a rather troubled mind.
“This encouragement was real and your malign, hate-filled purpose was real too.”
He said Fletcher took steps to seek out potential supplies of gas canisters in Workington but conceded his level of preparations for a killing spree was “limited”.
Simon Csoka QC, mitigating, said there was a “very real likelihood” that his client had undiagnosed Asperger syndrome.
Fletcher had been on the end of acts of public humiliation in the town, which probably had stemmed from the undiagnosed condition and him being perceived at school as “weird”, he said.
He said: “The court is dealing with somebody who barely left his home and, some people may say, was afraid of his own shadow who really didn’t get beyond talk on Facebook Messenger.”
Following sentencing, Lee Ingham, of the Crown Prosecution Service’s counter terrorism division said: “Like the mass murderers he admired, Shane Fletcher wanted to achieve notoriety by committing a killing spree of his own.
“The court found this hate-consumed man to be a danger to the public and it is right he has been sentenced today to a lengthy spell in prison.”