Leicester

How did Michael Piggin become radicalised?

Image copyright Photos provided by police
Image caption Police found weapons including a crossbow, air rifles and partially constructed homemade explosives at Piggin's home

A jury has failed to reach a verdict on terrorism charges against Michael Piggin, but his trial revealed how he stockpiled weapons after becoming fascinated with mass murders, and became radicalised against Muslim people.

How did a teenage boy from Loughborough develop extreme views and become engrossed with violence and death?

Police initially arrested Michael Piggin for an offence in which he allegedly threatened two boys with a knife, but officers were horrified when they searched his home in Beaumont Road, Shelthorpe.

Alongside innocent looking World War Two commemorative plates and Liverpool FC posters, the 17-year-old's bedroom walls were covered with newspaper cuttings about mass murders and he had hung a swastika flag over his bed.

Even more worryingly, police found weapons including a crossbow, air rifles and partially-constructed homemade explosives, as well as a copy of a banned book, the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook.

They also found videos of Piggin and two other boys making and testing homemade explosives - including throwing a petrol bomb against a building with children inside.

The jury failed to reach verdicts on two offences under the Terrorism Act - possession of articles for a purpose connected with terrorism, and possession of a document likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.

Image copyright Provided by police
Image caption Michael Piggin collected newspaper reports about mass murders

However, he admitted three charges under the Explosive Substances Act, for possession of some of the homemade weapons.

There will not be a retrial.

Consultant clinical psychologist Elie Godsi believes some kind of trauma must have led to Piggin's fascination with weapons and violence.

"No one does this without some history of abuse or trauma or some mistreatment," said Mr Godsi, author of Violence and Society: Making Sense of Madness and Badness.

"They have got to be aggrieved about something."

In court, Piggin, now 18, accepted using violence against his mother and hitting her during an argument.

Mr Godsi said people who use violence have typically experienced physical abuse themselves.

Image copyright Provided by police
Image caption He also collected military books and had World War Two commemorative plates

"You don't learn to do something like this with a happy background," said Mr Godsi.

"People's personalities develop as a consequence of their experiences.

"Whatever biological template they come from that's going to be massively shaped by what experiences they have. No-one is born brutal."

Piggin told the court he had become fascinated with World War Two, as well as the weapons and memorabilia associated with it, after a disruptive childhood in which he was repeatedly bullied.

He lived with his mother and told the trial that they had been evicted from their homes several times.

Piggin was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome after his arrest.

The trial also heard that he had felt angry and depressed and had considered killing himself.

Carol Povey, director of the Centre for Autism at the National Autistic Society, said having Asperger syndrome could have caused Piggin to be bullied.

"It is social communication disorder so it is difficult for people to relate to other people," she said.

"I think people with Asperger's syndrome often become isolated, they are often bullied at school, and on occasion this can lead them to develop a fantasy world, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they would want to carry out the activities that they may discuss."

There is no evidence that people with Asperger syndrome were more likely to be involved with crime or violence, she said.

In his defence, Piggin told the trial he had no intention to carry out any attacks and tested explosives "simply for entertainment".

He told the jury he collected airguns and knives because it was "cool".

As well as newspaper reports of mass killings, police found a DVD called Zero Day, which is a film inspired by the Columbine High School massacre, and a book called Spree Killers.

Part of the book recounted the Columbine massacre, and Piggin wrote about carrying out the "New Columbine" in his notebook.

A note inside Spree Killers read: "This is my favourite book and some of the people in this book have inspired me to be who and what I am.

"If anyone is in a bad situation in life, then read this book and some or all of the people in this book will inspire you to take necessary action."

Piggin wrote what the prosecution alleged were attack plans in a Che Guevara notebook emblazoned with swastikas and the initials of the English Defence League (EDL).

However, when asked by defence lawyer Ali Naseem Bajwa QC if there was a genuine plan to attack the targets, Piggin replied: "Of course not, no."

Most people can watch violent films or read about school shootings without fantasising about replicating the events, so why might other people react differently?

"If you don't have those brutal experiences you won't be turned on by that sort of thing," said Mr Godsi.

"You look at that and say, 'That's disgusting'.

"If you can relate to that alienation and hate and rage and vengefulness, that excites you and turns you on.

"Reading material that reinforces those kinds of views creates a mental rehearsal."

Piggin boasted at school about going on an EDL march in Leicester.

The jury was shown a video of the teenager spraying "No more mosques!" on the wall of a leisure centre.

In another video he said: "We are against the Muslim invasion of our country. If you are looking at us... we will kill you, yeah - we are willing to take arms to fight for this country."

But in his defence, Piggin told the jury he "didn't have a problem with Muslims in general" and described a series of racist comments at school as "banter".

Dr Matthew Goodwin, an associate professor of politics who specialises in far right extremism, said it was difficult to profile people who become involved with far right groups and violence.

"You could not say they are all uneducated young working class guys, even though many often are, because there are always people who do not fit the stereotype," he said.

"In my research, based on dozens of interviews with right-wing extremists, I often found that individuals join after experiencing a specific 'trigger' event, such as losing their job or experiencing some kind of discrimination, whether actual, or perceived."

In Piggin's case, Dr Goodwin said the trigger could have related to feeling ostracised at school, or not fitting in.

Image caption Michael Piggin boasted at school about going on an EDL march

Criminologist John Benyon said a lot of young men who develop extreme views suffer from personality disorders.

"If a young person is angry for some reason, has a personality disorder, feels that the world is against them, is bitter, they then may look at DVDs, they may look at YouTube," he said.

"Now that the internet is there they can spend hours in some cases reading up on cases, reading perverted views that are put out on the internet, that are freely available."

Related Topics

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites