Teenager Michael Piggin ‘planned new Columbine massacre’ in the Midlands
A teenager armed with guns and explosives planned to repeat the Columbine high school massacre by carrying out a terror attack on his former school, a cinema and a mosque, a court heard on Tuesday.
Michael Piggin, who was 16 at the time, stockpiled petrol bombs, air rifles, pistols and armour in his bedroom which he planned to use in attacks in Loughborough, Leicestershire, according to the prosecution.
The teenager, who has Asperger’s syndrome, had drawn up a hitlist that included his college, a mosque, a cinema, Loughborough University and the town’s council offices, the Old Bailey heard.
In a Che Guevara notebook emblazoned with Nazi swastikas and English Defence League (EDL) mottos, 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”.
Max Hill QC, prosecuting, said the arsenal of weapons found in Piggin’s bedroom was “striking”. He said: “This case concerns a young man, 17 years old when he was arrested, who lives in the Midlands, in Loughborough, and who despite his difficulties – Asperger’s syndrome, as you have heard – has extreme views and until his arrest was serious about putting those views into action against others. That is why he faces terrorism charges in this court; terrorism having a broad definition, as we shall see.”
Wearing jeans, a black Arctic Monkeys T-shirt, spectacles and a dog tag, Piggin bowed his head as Hill outlined the crown’s case against him. At one point, the 18-year-old could be seen shaking in the dock before an intermediary requested a break on his behalf.
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.
In recordings played to the jury, Piggin mentioned the Columbine high school massacre of 1999 and the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007, saying they were “all because of bullying”.
On a dictaphone seized by detectives Piggin suggested that he was driven to plot an attack because he had been bullied: “How the fuck could anyone treat a fellow person like people’s treated me?” he asked a month before his arrest in February 2013.
“That’s a question you want to be asking, that’s what drives people to do this. Look at all the fucking things in the past, at that, you know, Columbine, Virginia Tech, number of others. All because of bullying and how people are treated.”
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 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.
“They have the power to hit back at the strong and corrupt and hopefully it will cause people to do what I am, to rise up and take power back. I can’t alone change much but hopefully my actions can ensure a revolution against the system. People are living in a world of delusion. Even if I lose or will be known as evil I would rather fight and die than live a long and unhappy life.”
But Piggin denied he was racist, writing that he was just “proud of the country I love” and adding: “If I am racist why do I have friends that are foreign?”
The court heard that Piggin also drew a picture of the Batman villain The Joker, with a quote from the film The Dark Knight that said: “I’m an agent of chaos and you know a good thing about chaos – it’s fair.”
Piggin stockpiled nine partially assembled petrol bombs, as well as improvised explosive devices, air rifles, a gas mask, a crossbow, a camouflage flak jacket and other weaponry, the court heard. Detectives also found the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook in Piggin’s bedroom, the jury was told.
“For an average young man in an average house in Loughborough or any other town that list [of possessions] you may think is startling – and that is what this case is about,” said Hill, describing the Mujahideen Poisons Handbook as a “very out of the ordinary item, extraordinary”.
He asked jurors: “Is this all child’s play? Is it a harmless self obsession or is it something more sinister than that?”
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 (IEDs), the court heard.
He denies two terrorism charges.