Asda shelf-stacker Ryan Ashley Counsell planned to join militants in post-Brexit low

Duncan Gardham, Security Journalist

An Asda worker has been jailed for eight years after claiming he was joining radicals linked to Islamic State in order to escape the effects of Brexit.

White convert Ryan Ashley Counsell, 28, from Nottingham, claimed his interest in living "off the grid" in the Philippines had been prompted by watching the series Lives In The Wild by the TV presenter Ben Fogle.

In fact he was in the advanced stages of a plan to abandon his pregnant wife and three-year-old daughter in order to join Abu Sayyaf - which has sworn allegiance to IS.

The group released a video on Sunday showing German tourist Jurgen Kantner, 70, being beheaded with a machete after four months in captivity.

At Counsell's sentencing, his barrister John Kearney told the judge his client had not given his full reasons for leaving the country because he did not want to "alienate a jury".

"There was a time last year, after the Brexit results, and his feeling at the time was there were divisions in his community in Nottingham and he was concerned at the way ordinary people were reacting to ordinary Muslims.

"It is against this background that he was looking for a different way of life."

But judge Andrew Lees said: "You had spent considerable sums of money on preparing for your journey, saved cash to take with you, and amassed equipment.

"I am sure you would have gone. What is more I am sure that you would not have returned."

Clean-shaven Counsell, wearing a pink shirt and matching tie, glanced at his mother in the public gallery as he was led to the cells.

The court heard Counsell spent two years stockpiling bomb-making instructions and equipment for his trip at the home in Forest Fields, Nottingham, that he shared with his Somali-born wife and their young daughter.

Among the equipment was Kevlar-lined underpants called "Blast Boxers".

On the way Counsell wanted to stop to hire Philippine prostitutes. His internet searches included "Philippines escort directory" and he visited escort websites.

Other searches included: "I hate marriage."

In his defence, Counsell told the court he felt sexually "unfulfilled" and "the sexual side of the relationship with my wife, I would say was non-existent, because she refused to have sex with me all the time".

But Counsell had also become involved with a group called the Nottingham Islam Information Point, which runs a youth centre in Hyson Green encouraging people to convert to Islam.

He said the group was a "little bit extreme", explaining they had "very strong ideas about certain things" and were "a bit harsh to some people".

The court heard he had downloaded a huge amount of extremist material, including beheading videos, a recipe labelled "How to make a bomb in the kitchen of your mom", and an ebook called How To Survive in the West, a Mujahid Guide which explains how to function as a "secret agent" in the West.

Counsell spent £859.39 on equipment he bought from a website called UKMC Pro Ltd, based in Southsea, Portsmouth. It was these purchases that alerted police.

He told the jury he had bought the equipment for a paintball-like game called Airsoft, and was "addicted to computer gaming, using the internet and aspects of hygiene and cooking".

He described his interests as religion, conspiracy theories, history, and military equipment, along with "wanting to live off-the-grid, so to speak - living without connection to electricity or gas in a caravan or a tent".

Counsell was working part-time as a shelf-stacker at the Hyson Green branch of Asda in Nottingham and had booked a week off work to travel to the Philippines in July last year when police raided his house.

In a cupboard in his child's bedroom there was a blue suitcase, which was filled with camping and military equipment.

Cash amounting to £3,838.57 was also found in the house, including three bundles of £1,000 in £20 notes.

"The Crown says that this equipment could only have been gathered for one purpose, namely to engage in combat," Dan Pawson-Pounds, prosecuting, told Woolwich Crown Court.

But Mr Kearney told the sentencing hearing that Counsell had an "idyllic" view of life under Sharia law and added: "Had Mr Counsell got there, I submit it is inevitable he would have been held as a hostage for ransom."

Counsell was jailed for eight years for preparing acts of terrorism by arranging to travel to the Philippines to join and fight for an Islamic terrorist group, and purchasing equipment and clothing for use when having joined such a group.

He was also jailed for 18 months concurrently for three charges of possession of electronic documents useful for terrorism.

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