Page last updated at 13:09 GMT, Tuesday, 8 September 2009 14:09 UK

What had white supremacist planned?

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Neil Lewington
Neil Lewington denied eight charges

Neil Lewington, who turned his bedroom into a bomb-making factory, has been convicted of terrorism and explosive charges.

But how dangerous was he and what was he planning to do? Those are the two questions that have been hardest to answer in his trial at the Old Bailey.

But what is clear is that his apprehension was a matter of good fortune alone.

In October 2008 he was travelling by train to meet a woman he had contacted in an internet chatroom on his mobile phone.

He was drunk and abused a female train guard. She alerted a police officer on duty at Lowestoft station, who then arrested Lewington when he got off the train and urinated on the platform.

But when officers opened his blue holdall, a public order arrest became a counter-terrorism investigation. Inside, they found two improvised but ingenious incendiary devices.

Counter-terrorism officers dashed to the 43-year-old's Reading home, which he shared with his parents. There they found extreme right-wing material, including videos of notorious racist or white-supremacist bombers.

He had stockpiled chemicals, powders circuitry and wiring.

In short, it looked like a bomb factory. And, according to the prosecution, Lewington was on the cusp of launching a campaign against anyone he regarded as "non-British".

Bomb-making materials
Prosecutors called Lewington's bedroom a bomb-making "factory"

But this case is full of mysteries. During 14 interviews, Lewington's only reply to counter-terrorism officers was "no comment".

He chose not to take to the witness box at the Old Bailey - and his legal team offered up no other witnesses or material in his defence.

He hardly looked up from the dock during the trial, sitting impassively as the proceedings went on around him.

Extremist material

Dr Matthew Feldman, an expert in neo-Nazi groups and imagery, gave evidence at the trial on the items that police recovered from Lewington's home.

No longer will the weaklings rule the white man by lies and deceit, but the warrior will make his comeback, and rule by strength, honesty and love for his race
Well-known neo-Nazi quote, found in Lewington's notes

He told the jury the material Lewington kept hidden in his room was exactly the kind of literature and notes you would expect to find belonging to a white supremacist neo-Nazi.

The most important document was Lewington's handwritten notebook entitled the "Waffen SS UK Members Handbook".

Experts like Dr Feldman have not come across the title before, but its contents bore a striking similarity to other "field manuals" circulated among other neo-Nazi groups like Combat 18.

Inside was a note written in Lewington's own hand.

"A new group has been formed, the Waffen SS UK. We have 30 members split into 15 two-man cells," it read.

"We are highly trained ex-military personnel and will use incendiary and explosive devices throughout the UK at random until all non-British people as defined by blood are removed from our country.

"This is no joke. In this country the most serious domestic terrorist threat is the ALF [Animal Liberation Front], start rewriting the books?

"Finally our motto: You CANNOT STOP WHAT CAN'T BE STOPPED"

The book included further notes relating to explosives and plans for picking targets.

Bomb-making materials
A first police search of Lewington's home was stopped for safety reasons

Other material loosely linked Lewington to "Blood and Honour", a British social scene built around neo-Nazi music.

And unusually for a British man, Lewington was also interested in two other groups - the Ku Klux Klan and the Afrikaners who supported apartheid.

So Lewington's personal ideology was broad, encompassing hatred of other ethnicities, a white supremacist anger, but also a fascist yearning for a new world order.

Giving him an indeterminate sentence with a minimum of six years, Judge Peter Thornton said: "You are a dangerous man, somebody who exhibits emotional coldness and detachment.

"You would not have been troubled by the prospect of endangering somebody's life.

"I accept you are an oddball, eccentric, dysfunctional and sometimes immature, but I do not accept that you are no more than a nuisance or pest.

"In my judgement there is a significant risk to the public of serious harm."

Loner tendencies

Lewington himself bragged to women of being a skinhead who beat up Asian men.

But counter-terrorism officers found no evidence the defendant was or is a member of any extreme right-wing political party or group in the UK or elsewhere. Furthermore, they had no evidence that he was associating with any known or suspected right-wing extremist.

These loner tendencies fit in with what we know about the rest of his life. Lewington lived with his parents - but had not spoken to his father for 10 years.

He did nothing to help at home. There was no lock on the bedroom door, but he had covered the keyhole with modelling clay. He had held down jobs in electronics - but not worked for a decade when arrested.

One would-be girlfriend was put off him because he kept making racist threats against black and Asian men.

And during a relationship with another woman, he bought a toy chemistry set and told her he could use it to make explosives. He said he had made tennis ball bombs to explode in the woods.

Lewington appears to have had no home computer - although police did find a laptop cable. He had no training in chemicals or explosives. Yet he produced devices which, according to scientists, were more dangerous and professional than many DIY efforts uncovered by police.

So if he wasn't a member of any neo-Nazi group and wasn't spending his nights scouring the internet for bomb-making instructions, how did he learn how to make these devices?

Neighbourly behaviour

Lewington's silence in court means we may never know. But one incident following his arrest was revealing about his state of mind.

Detectives at London's high security Paddington Green police station conducted a "safety interview" with Lewington, asking him for any information they might need to protect the public from uncovered explosives.

The officers were particularly concerned about a mechanism placed against the bedroom wall.

Lewington told them it wasn't a bomb. It was the inner workings of an automatic air freshener.

He had adapted the motor and added a cord and metal nut. And during the night, at regular intervals, the motor would spin and flick the nut against the wall.

What was it for? - asked the detectives. To annoy his neighbours, he replied.



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