Schoolboy’s UK extremist group plotting attacks on migrants included neo-Nazi terrorist

Matthew Cronjager, who joined the boy's group, had been jailed for plotting a terrorist attack

A Border Force vessel used to rescue migrants from the English Channel in Dover harbour. A schoolboy who plotted attacks on the Dover coast was handed a two-year youth referral order and a three-year criminal behaviour order. Reuters
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A UK extremist group run by a teenage boy who once threatened to blow up a mosque, included a neo-Nazi who faces a lengthy jail sentence for plotting a terrorist attack.

The boy, now 16, set up The British Hand, a far-right group, when he was 14 and ran it on Telegram, the encrypted social media site.

He vetted others in private chat groups where they talked about “doing something” against ethnic minorities, and discussed weapons, Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard.

“I am planning a [sic] attack against the Dover coast where every Muslim and refugee has been given safey [sic] if your [sic] interested tell me now," he wrote in one post.

It can now be revealed that one member of his group was Matthew Cronjager.

Cronjager was found guilty at the Old Bailey last week of plotting a terrorist attack after the court heard he wanted to shoot an Asian friend.

The 18-year-old neo-Nazi, from Essex, tried to get hold of a 3D printed gun to kill his teenage target, whom he likened to a cockroach.

Prosecutor Alistair Richardson said Cronjager is facing a jail sentence in “double figures” after being convicted of preparing for acts of terrorism and disseminating terrorist publications on Telegram, having previously admitted four charges of possessing terrorist documents.

The cases can be linked for the first time after reporting restrictions were lifted on Thursday by chief magistrate Paul Goldspring as he sentenced the 16-year-old.

The youngster, who cannot be identified because of his age, pleaded guilty in June to possessing a terrorist publication, disseminating a terrorist publication, and encouraging terrorism in August and September last year.

Mr Goldspring handed him a two-year youth referral order and a three-year criminal behaviour order after saying he had served the equivalent of more than 18 months in custody while on remand.

He said the facts of the case “give rise to genuine concerns about” the boy but that a short custodial sentence would “serve little or no purpose” and “would be purely punitive”.

“I can’t emphasise how close you came to a further period of custody. Until last night I was going to do so," he said.

“I changed my sentencing reasons at about 11pm last night – that is how close you came.”

The boy received a caution in September 2019 for sending pictures of bombs to a fellow school pupil over Snapchat.

He has previous convictions for a hate crime, after threatening to blow up a mosque on January 20 last year, and assaulting an emergency worker, by attacking a police officer who went to his home.

The court heard that he also made a string of phone calls to mosques in London and was twice referred to the government’s Prevent de-radicalisation programme.

He downloaded a video of the Christchurch mosque attacks in New Zealand, in which gunman Brenton Tarrant shot and killed 51 people, and saved an image of a “leader board” of right-wing terrorists, including the number of people they had killed.

After he was first arrested in September last year, he boasted about being the leader of The British Hand and admitted he was a terrorist.

Mark Luckett, defending, previously said the teenager had been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

“It is clear at some point he had been manipulated," he said.

“The offences occurred during the first national lockdown. [He] appears to have spent a concerning amount of time online, which has unfortunately led him down a very dark rabbit hole.”

A second 16-year-old boy, from Kent, who was a member of the Telegram chat group, admitted disseminating a terrorist publication called the White Resistance Manual by sending an electronic link in August, which allowed others to access it.

He was handed a 12-month youth referral order by Mr Goldspring, who said he did not want to interrupt his education.

Updated: September 09, 2021, 4:59 PM