Michael Piggin: Columbine-style terror attack not my intention

Asperger’s syndrome sufferer stockpiled petrol bombs, guns and body armour but denies he would have carried out Loughborough attack

The Che Guevara notebook in which Michael Piggin allegedly planned a Columbine-style massacre. Piggin denies the charge. Photograph: Greater Manchester Police/PA

The Che Guevara notebook in which Michael Piggin allegedly planned a Columbine-style massacre. Piggin denies the charge. Photograph: Greater Manchester Police/PA

A teenager accused of plotting to carry out a Columbine high school-style massacre has told a court that he had a “strong interest in mass killings” and had been caught up in anti-Muslim rhetoric.

Michael Piggin, who was 16 at the time, told the Old Bailey on Friday that he had never intended to go through with “The Operation” and had drawn up detailed plans including a 14-page letter and a hitlist of targets because it “made him feel better.”

Piggin, who has Asperger’s syndrome, is accused of planning an attack on his former school, a cinema and a mosque in his home town of Loughborough. The prosecution claimed he intended to use petrol bombs, air rifles, pistols, knives and armour he had stockpiled in his bedroom in the attacks.

The court heard that he had a strong interest in mass killings including the shootings in Cumbria in 2010 and the trial of Norwegian killer Anders Breivik. He also admitted that he had sympathy for the Columbine high school killers as well as their victims and said there were some parallels between his situation and theirs.

“There were similarities with the bullying but that was pretty much where it stopped,” he told the court.

Wearing a blue hooded top and an Arctic Monkeys T-shirt, Piggin said he had drawn up a hitlist of 19 people including former schoolmates and teachers when he had been low and anxious after finishing secondary school. But he insisted he had never intended to act on the plan, saying it had helped with his anxiety.

“I felt it got that stuff off my mind,” Piggin told the jury. “It let me focus on whatever else – education, GCSEs whatever.”

The court heard that he had kept a notebook and written a letter setting out his plans “as though they were going to happen” for a similar reason.

Piggin, who described himself as a social outcast in a text message read out in court, was arrested last February after threatening other teenagers with a knife. When police searched his room they found a swastika flag above his bed, Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, military books and DVDs.

Speaking in a quiet voice from the witness stand, Piggin described how he was repeatedly bullied as a child, forcing him to move between primary schools. He and his mother were also evicted from their flat and had to live first with his grandmother and then his older brother.

He said that from the age of 11 or 12 he developed a growing interest in the army and all kinds of weapons, and had a large collection of military books and DVDs.

As a teenager he had formed a group called the URA – the Urban Revolutionary Army or United Rebel Army – with two friends. In theory, he said, it was an anti-extremist group dedicated to defending the country. However, he added, it was just a way of the friends expressing themselves. “Realistically … it was something for us to do, that the three of us could do together.”

Earlier in the trial the court heard that police had recovered a Che Guevara notebook emblazoned with Nazi swastikas and English Defence League (EDL) mottos. In it Piggin wrote that the “worst and most life-changing things” happened to him at school and said that council officials had “tortured my family over the years”.

Jurors heard Piggin’s notebook contained tactics for what he called “Operation: The New Columbine” along with a detailed drawing of a stick man showing how he would arm himself.

On the back of his notebook, Piggin had scribbled “Fuck Islam – born in England, live in England, die in England”, and inside he wrote that he was a member of the EDL in opposition to the “Islamic invasion of Europe”.

In evidence he said he had been caught up in anti-Muslim rhetoric through reading EDL material.

In one recording, Piggin was heard to say: “The reason I’m about to take this action is to show that even the smallest and least powerful people have the power to hit back against the strong and the powerful.”

But giving evidence he insisted he never intended to kill anyone. He said he began collecting weapons and explosives when he was at secondary school, adding that he had a list of weapons, including a machete, axe and throwing knives at his home because of his interest in camping and survival techniques.

Piggin and two other teenagers, who cannot be named, have already admitted possessing petrol bombs and component parts of pipe bombs for the use of explosive devices, the jury was told. Piggin has also admitted possessing the component parts for improvised explosive devices, the court heard.

He denies two terrorism charges.

The trial continues.

The Guardian