Page last updated at 16:02 GMT, Friday, 4 September 2009 17:02 UK

Ex-pupil 'wanted to torch school'

Matthew Swift and Ross McKnight
The prosecution alleges the pair planned to bomb a shopping centre

One of two teenagers accused of planning a copycat Columbine massacre at his former school told friends he wanted to "torch" it, a jury heard.

Matthew Swift, 18, and Ross McKnight, 16, are accused of plotting to bomb a shopping centre and shoot students at Audenshaw School in Greater Manchester.

A female friend of former pupil Mr Swift told Manchester Crown Court he hated the school.

The pair deny conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions.

The court heard Mr Swift would fly into a rage if told off by a teacher.

His friend, who cannot be identified, told the court: "He said he hated the place and wished he'd never come there.

'Really angry'

"He wanted to torch it. His words would be quite violent, he wanted to burn it down or break windows."

She also told prosecutor Peter Wright QC that Mr Swift was "quite funny" but that "sometimes he would have a bit of a bad temper and say stuff I didn't really take to mean much - he said throwaway things".

The prosecution claims the pair planned to launch their attack at the school on the 10th anniversary of the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in the US.

One teacher and 12 students were killed in the US attack on 20 April 1999.

I felt the people who did it [the Columbine massacre] were evil and he didn't
Evidence by friend of Mr Swift

The prosecution also alleges they planned to bomb the Crown Point North shopping centre in Denton.

The girl added Mr Swift, who was good at art and design, but "really angry" when told off, hated certain teachers.

She told the jury that during a conversation in an online chat room with Mr Swift last December, he told her: "If I ever text you not to come into college don't question it."

When she asked why, he added: "I'm just in a bad mood, just leave it."

The girl revealed a conversation they had had after watching a film in school about the Columbine massacre.

"I felt the people who did it were evil and he didn't think that," she told the court.

When cross examined by Mr Swift's barrister Stephen Riordan QC about the defendant's alleged threat to destroy the school, she said: "I thought he was just winding me up or saying things to impress other people he was with."

'Vivid imagination'

A journal was found in Mr Swift's bedroom after he was re-arrested by police in March, the court heard.

Mr Wright read excerpts of the notepad to the jury in which the Columbine murdered were named.

In it Mr Swift allegedly wrote: "Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold will rise again."

"This was a script/story, set of ideas, for a character similar to Eric Harris," it said.

"This is the reason I kept the journal because I wanted to incorporate it into my story," the text said.

Mr Swift also allegedly wrote that the plan was "never concrete", the jury heard.

In another entry, read out to the court, the text read: "I was 16 with a vivid imagination." It went on to say: "I was a boy who didn't want to face up to my fears. I was going through a rebellious stage."

The trial continues.

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