Neo-Nazi planned to blow himself up at synagogue, court hears

Mason Reynolds - sketch by court artist
Mason Reynolds was described as a 'violent anti-Semite' - Elizabeth Cook/PA

A teenage neo-Nazi plotted to blow himself and worshippers up at a synagogue in East Sussex over a Jewish holiday, a court heard on Thursday.

Mason Reynolds, described as a “violent anti-Semite”  had annotated diagrams of the building in Hove on his phone and had identified one entrance that would be ‘‘good for surprise attack’’, jurors at Winchester Crown Court, in Hampshire, were told.

Prosecutors alleged that the 19-year-old, who was at sixth form college and living with his parents, held “racist and white supremacist” views, which he planned to act on one day when the synagogue was most busy.

He is said to have messaged an extreme online chat group, saying he “had a plan” and wanted to better the efforts of other neo-Nazi attacks on Jewish people.

Mr Reynolds denies possessing an article for terrorist purposes between May and June last year and claims he did not intend to act on what was ‘‘in effect, all talk’’.

‘Charged with a terrorism-related offence’

Opening the trial, Naomi Parsons, prosecuting, said Mr Reynolds was a student in Brighton, East Sussex, in an otherwise “typical existence”.

“He lived with his mum and dad, who he got on well with,” she said. “At the time, Mr Reynolds has admitted he was a neo-Nazi.

“Mr Reynolds does not find himself here because he has political, racial or ideological views that some may find distasteful or indeed abhorrent. He’s here because he has been charged with a terrorism-related offence, and what that means, in practice, is that he’s not just held those political, racial and ideological views – he’s acted on them.”

Ms Parsons said the specific article related to a note that was found on the notes app of his phone, adding: “It contained a plan to attack a synagogue in Hove, just outside Brighton. It was a note which had inserted in it a video and a few images and some text.”

The court heard there were designs of the synagogue, with entrances, exits and a camera. Ms Parsons added: “One annotation on the map reads: ‘Unknown place it leads to could blow the whole plan but could be good for surprise attack.’

“Further text inserted: ‘The Jewish holidays that tend to have the most people in synagogues are Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Passover.’”

Mr Reynolds was arrested in June 2023. His phone and laptop were seized, and police found a “vast amount” of neo-Nazi, specifically anti-Semitic material, it was heard.

Mr Reynolds was part of a channel on Telegram, an instant messaging application, called Far Right Sigmas, which had started in November 2022.

He was one of two people “entrusted” with posting content on the neo-Nazi “propaganda channel”.

Ms Parsons said the motive of the channel could be encapsulated in a 14-word sentence taken from Mein Kampf which read: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

‘He did have a plan’

The court heart the “deep-rooted concern” among the approximate 350 subscribers was that the white race was “under threat” from other races, and that Jewish people were responsible for that.

A chat group was set up shortly after the channel, and Mr Reynolds was given “admin” powers to ban certain people from joining. Ms Parsons said the chat was used to discuss the attacks of neo-Nazis such as Brenton Tarrant, Anders Breivik and Stephan Balliet.

She said that on Yom Kippur in October 2019, Balliet had live-streamed himself using home-made weapons to kill two and wound another two before trying to attack a synagogue in Germany.

In private messages on Telegram, Mr Reynolds was found to be in possession of a video captioned: “Burn your local synagogue, join your local Nazis” and an image he made, captioned: “Make Jews afraid again.”

In June last year, he started detailing a plan under which he wanted to ‘‘blow myself up inside a synagogue’’. He wrote ‘‘I have a plan’’ alongside the entrance and exit points of the synagogue and a camera.

Ms Parsons added: “Mr Reynolds was not lying about that – he did have a plan, that was not a fiction. The circumstances give rise to a reasonable suspicion that he had the note for a purpose connected to an act of terrorism.”

The court heard the examination of his devices also found Mujahideen’s Explosives Handbook and instructions on how to make a 3D printed gun.

Mr Reynolds has previously pleaded guilty to separate charges of possession and distribution of terrorist material.

In his police interview, he accepted making the note but said he did it to ‘‘shut his friends up’’ because they were always having a go at him for being ‘‘all talk and no action’’.

The court heard he titled the note Enough Larping – with Larp standing for live action role play – but did not intend to take actions in real life.

Amy Packham, representing Mr Reynolds, said he accepted creating the plan, but never intended to use it. “It was never his purpose for that plan to be used by him or anyone else to attack the Hebrew Centre or any synagogue,” she said. “It was, in effect, all talk.”

The three-week trial continues.

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