An alleged member of banned neo-Nazi group National Action has admitted to plotting to kill Labour MP Rosie Cooper with a machete. Jack Renshaw, 23, also admitted to planning to murder a police officer.
On the opening day of his trial at the Old Bailey on Tuesday, the 23-year-old pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism and making threats to kill a police officer. Renshaw, of Skelmersdale in Lancashire, bought a Gladius machete with the intention to kill the West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper. He also admitted to planning the murder of police officer Victoria Henderson, who had interviewed him previously after police discovered evidence of child sex offences on his mobile phone.
Justice Robert Jay directed the jury to deliver a formal guilty verdict on the two charges. Renshaw also faces a third charge relating to his membership of the banned neo-Nazi group, however he has denied this claim.
In 2016, then-Home Secretary Amber Rudd banned the far-right group following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016. The group had supported the MP’s tragic slaying, which led to Rudd making membership or inviting support for the organization a criminal offence which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
The court heard that Renshaw bought the sword-like knife to kill the West Lancashire Labour MP between 5 June and 3 July last year. He made threats while in a pub in Warrington on 1 July last year, it was alleged.
Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC said in his opening statement that "this case concerns these defendants and their support for, involvement in and membership of the proscribed racist neo-Nazi group National Action."
He told the court that Renshaw had planned to carry out a "politically and racially motivated murder" in support of National Action, he told the court, and this was to be done "with the blessing" of his leader, Christopher Lythgoe, 32, from Warrington. Lythgoe is on trial alongside Renshaw.
Lythgoe stands accused of giving Renshaw permission to murder the Labour MP on behalf of the neo-Nazi group after reportedly saying "Don't f*** it up” when the 23-year-old announced his plans. Lythgoe has denied the charge.
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As well as Renshaw and Lythgoe, four other men are also charged with membership of the banned far right group: Garron Helm, 24, of Seaforth, Merseyside; Matthew Hankinson, 24, of Newton-le-Willows, Merseyside; Andrew Clark, 33, and Michael Trubini, 35, both of Warrington. All have denied the charge.
The court was told the group had embarked on a campaign of “virulently racist, anti-Semitic and homophobic propaganda through which it sought to stir up a violent ‘race war’ against ethnic minorities and others it perceived as ‘race traitors’” since 2013. He also said that the group had attempted to recruit and radicalize young people with violent images and "hate-filled language".
Despite the ban in 2016, the defendants remained active members of the organization after it was proscribed, Atkinson told the court. The two defendants were part of the North West area branch of National Action which met at the Friar Penketh pub in Warrington, jurors heard. This was were Renshaw allegedly boasted about his plan to kill Cooper.
The prosecutor told the court that Renshaw's threat of violence was personal as well as political. He was arrested in January 2017 on suspicion of stirring up racial hatred in two anti-Semitic speeches in Blackpool and at the Yorkshire Forum for Nationalists. It was after this arrest that one of his targets, Detective Constable Victoria Henderson, interviewed him before he was released on bail.
After examining Renshaw’s phone, police also reportedly discovered what they believed to be evidence of child sex offences. He was interviewed again by DC Henderson, jurors were told.
Renshaw had also researched "cutting the jugular artery" on the internet last May, the court heard.
Atkinson told the court that "Renshaw's plan had a more sophisticated dimension in that its objective was not simply to make a political point – as he put it to kill for National Action and White Jihad – but to revenge himself on those he considered to be persecuting him and trying to send him to prison for a significant period.
"Renshaw explained that, after killing Rosie Cooper MP, he would take some people hostage and would then demand of the police when they attended that DC Henderson come to the scene,” Atkinson continued. "His plan then would be to kill that officer who was, he said, his real target."
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