Fantasising about Mass Murder - Hardly the 'Frivolity of Youth'!
Byline: richard littlejohn
THIS column is always quick to criticise the police and the CPS for bringing frivolous cases to court. But don't expect me to join the chorus of condemnation over the two teenagers accused of plotting a Columbine-style school massacre in Manchester. If ever there was a prosecution in the public interest, this was it, even though it took a jury only 45 minutes to return a verdict of not guilty.
That probably says more about the members of the jury than the evidence laid before them. I'm not arguing with the verdict, but that doesn't mean the case should not have been brought.
Over three weeks, the Crown produced plenty of evidence to support the contention that Matthew Swift and Ross McKnight were planning a bloodbath at their school to commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Columbine massacre in the U.S. McKnight told a terrified fellow pupil that he intended to shoot as many people as possible. After she reported it to police, officers who raided the teenagers' homes discovered hate-filled diaries, newspaper cuttings about shootings and bombmaking manuals.
In Swift's bedroom they found a safe containing details on how to use acetone peroxide as a detonator, along with plans and maps of the school. There was also a pad on which was written: 'Project Rainbow, Ground Zero ... Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold will rise again.' (Harris and Klebold were the Columbine killers.) Swift wrote about being the reincarnation of Harris.
His collection of reading material included Hitler's autobiography Mein Kampf and The Turner Diaries, said to have inspired the Columbine murderers.
Police also found two films about school shootings, Elephant and Zero Day.
The pair had bought combat clothing and backpacks and made mobile phone videos of themselves allegedly experimenting with explosives. They boasted in their journal about staging 'the greatest massacre ever'.
WHILE McKnight fantasised about shooting schoolmates 'one by one' and kicking their heads off as he walked past, Swift talked about killing a teacher, cutting her legs off and throwing her into a tank of hydrochloric acid.
The defence maintained all this was simply 'teenage angst', pure escapism, mere juvenile bravado. The jury even laughed when McKnight's father said his son was full of 'hare-brained schemes'.
Though McKnight and Swift were found not guilty of conspiracy to commit murder and cause explosions, they are guilty of rank stupidity and recklessness.
McKnight made a ranting phone call 'confessing' to the plot. His lawyer says he wasn't serious because when he made the call he was out of his skull on a cocktail of drink and drugs. Bless him.
Their headmaster said they were lovely boys who were never in any trouble. That's what we were told about the 7/7 bombers, too, after they killed 52 people and injured hundreds of others.
Listening to defending counsel, you'd have been forgiven for believing that Swift and McKnight were innocent victims here, not architects of their own ordeal. …