Page last updated at 19:01 GMT, Wednesday, 9 September 2009 20:01 UK

Columbine film 'inspired' accused

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

A teenager accused of plotting a Columbine school-style massacre said his interest in the killings was sparked by a Michael Moore documentary.

Matthew Swift, 18, began imitating killer Eric Harris - whom he believed was "misunderstood" - after watching the film Bowling for Columbine.

But he told Manchester Crown Court his massacre plot was just a "fantasy".

Mr Swift and his friend Ross McKnight, aged 16, deny conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions.

Mr Swift, a former pupil at Audenshaw High School in Greater Manchester, and McKnight, who still attended, are accused of plotting the attack on the 10th anniversary of the Columbine massacre.

The prosecution claim Mr Swift became obsessed with the US school shootings - carried out by Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris - who murdered 12 students and a teacher on 20 April 1999.

I suppose I felt to a point, I was imitating his character
Matthew Swift

Giving evidence on Wednesday, he said his interest in the killings began while studying in his first year of A-levels.

"We were shown a film called Bowling for Columbine, a documentary about that," he said.

"I sort of was interested in it after I watched that.

"At the time I felt that maybe the lads were misunderstood or some other reason.

"I started reading about it more and more and got very interested in Eric Harris's character."

'Fantasy plan'

Stephen Riordan QC, defending, asked Mr Swift if he felt he developed "more than an interest" in Harris.

"I suppose I felt to a point, I was imitating his character."

The defendant was asked about Project Rainbow, the alleged plot which was outlined in journals kept by the teenagers.

"It was a fantasy plan that developed from my interest in Eric Harris and Columbine," he told the jury.

"The fantasy was, if something like that was to happen in Manchester and we were those characters, like Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, how it would happen."

The court was told that Mr Swift, who lived with his grandparents, never knew his father and his mother was a violent alcoholic who died when he was 10.

Guns denial

He had been advised to take anti-depressants when he was aged 17, but did not take the medication, the jury heard.

Earlier, the court heard Mr Swift had tried to get access to explosives through the internet or friends.

But the teenager denied ever getting hold of any chemicals.

Mr Riordan asked Mr Swift if he had ever obtained - or tried to obtain - firearms, to which he replied: "No."

"When it came to Project Rainbow did you ever have any intention of carrying out the things you described?" the barrister asked him.

"No," replied Mr Swift.

The trial was adjourned until Thursday.

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