Ex-soldier William Howitt guilty of far-right bookshop terror plot

An ex-soldier who admired Adolf Hitler and planned to burn down a left-wing bookshop has been found guilty of preparing a terrorist act.

A court heard William Howitt, 27, wrote a detailed guide on his phone to carry out the arson attack on the Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham.

The plan included painting a swastika and "white lives matter" on the wall.

He was remanded in custody for sentencing at Birmingham Crown Court on 14 December.

The court heard the guide for burning down the bookshop was written on 7 September 2020.

It referenced smashing the windows of the bookshop and dousing books and upholstery with petrol.

On the same day, Howitt bought a hammer to break glass and tarpaulin - both items mentioned in the plan.

The Five Leaves Bookshop
Howitt's plan involved smashing the windows of the bookshop and dousing books and upholstery with petrol

On 5 January, Howitt, of West Bridgford, Nottinghamshire, was stopped at East Midlands Airport.

Counter-terrorism police found the plan on his phone along with other antisemitic, anti-communist and pro-Nazi messages, videos and photographs.

Analysis of his phone data found Howitt had researched the bookshop and took screenshots of the interior and exterior.

He had looked up white nationalist groups, bought an Adolf Hitler T-shirt and exchanged homophobic, transphobic and antisemitic messages with other people.

Police found Howitt had also asked a contact for a firearm for a "politically driven" act.

'He was angry'

Giving evidence earlier this month, Howitt, who became a crane operator after leaving the Army, denied having racist views.

He said he had issues with his mental health and would say things he did not mean when abusing cocaine and alcohol.

Prosecutor Emma Gargitter said: "He was someone who held entrenched racist, white supremacist, far right views.

"Whilst drink might have given him the confidence to express those views more freely than when he was sober, they didn't only arise when he drank.

"He was angry, increasingly so over the summer of 2020 and into 2021.

"His plan was fuelled by those views and by that anger."

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