Leicester

Michael Piggin's 'fantasy world' of terrorism and vengeance

Michael Piggin Image copyright Provided by police
Image caption Piggin was filmed posing with weapons and ranting about a "Muslim invasion"

A jury at the Old Bailey has failed to reach verdicts on terrorism charges against an 18-year-old from Loughborough.

The student had already admitted possessing an offensive weapon as well as three charges under the Explosives Substances Act, but he denied two offences under the Terrorism Act and a jury was not able to reach verdicts.

The prosecution in the case had alleged he was planning to launch attacks on a number of individuals and organisations against whom he bore a grudge in his home town of Loughborough.

The defence, however, said that because he has Asperger syndrome, a form of autism, the plans were never serious and his condition "was the lens through which they must view his behaviour".

The teenager was arrested in February 2013, a month after he turned 17, when he allegedly threatened a group of teenagers in Loughborough with a knife.

When police searched his bedroom, in the flat he shared with his mother, they discovered what was described in court as an "arsenal" of weapons, as well as other material, which made them believe he was a potential terrorist.

However, a jury could not reach verdicts on the two terrorism offences - 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 Piggin's bedroom was covered with newspaper cuttings about WW2, far right extremism and mass killings

Det Sgt Darren Mangan, the arresting officer, said: "There was a Nazi flag on the wall, there was approximately 10 empty bottles with cloths in the top which were component parts for Molotov cocktails, just without the petrol.

"There was quite a few newspaper cuttings in relation to previous mass murders, where quite a lot of people had lost their lives."

There was also a notebook which contained a potential target list of individuals and organisations, including his former schools and teachers, as well as fellow students.

Image copyright Provided by police
Image caption Michael Piggin wrote what the prosecution alleged were attack plans in his notebook

But the "hit list" also contained people and places which he had included for petty reasons. The Reel cinema in Loughborough was there because staff had been rude to him and he believed they charged too much.

Detectives also found a film he made with two friends, in which they posed with a gun and said they were members of the URA - which was a group they had formed, called either the Urban Revolutionary Army or the United Rebel Army. They also filmed themselves testing a petrol bomb.

At the outset of the trial the jury at the Old Bailey was told by the prosecution they had to decide if the teenager was "just a misfit or something more sinister". But the court also heard from experts who said that his condition affected the way he thought and behaved.

Dr Alexandra Lewis, a forensic psychiatrist from Feltham Young Offender Institution, told the court it was quite surprising that there had not been a previous diagnosis, as his presentation was so typical, and that it ought to have been easily recognisable from age three.

Giving evidence, Piggin said he had been repeatedly bullied and had moved schools frequently. The three he attended after he was 11 all knew he had disciplinary and behavioural problems but had failed to recognise Asperger syndrome.

Karen Todner, a solicitor who represented a 16-year-old boy from Northampton in a similar case last year, believes his condition is to blame for his morbid fantasies.

"I think the problems really are that people of that age need to be diagnosed earlier, when they're in the school system," she said.

"If people have Asperger's it needs to be recognised, so that it is accommodated for... so that people are not left on the internet... running riot."

Image copyright Provided by police
Image caption Piggin was filmed spraying Islamophobic graffiti on a wall

Michael Piggin was diagnosed with Asperger syndrome after his arrest and during the trial special arrangements had to be made to help him follow proceedings.

He admitted collecting the weapons and having a fascination with mass killings, especially the Columbine Massacre in the US in 1999.

He had books, films and newspaper cuttings, and had started to wear a long trench coat just like the killers at Columbine, who were also 17 at the time.

But the Director of the National Autistic Society, Carol Povey, said his condition meant any suggestion of him carrying out a similar attack was pure fantasy.

"People with Asperger syndrome often become isolated, they are often bullied at school, and, on occasion this can lead them to develop a fantasy world.

"But that doesn't mean that they would necessarily want to carry out the activities that they discuss."

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