Mosque attack suspect told mother he had ‘done something stupid’, court hears

·5-min read

A man on trial for terrorism offences told his mother he had “done something stupid” by pretending to set fire to a mosque, a court has heard.

Sam Imrie has been charged with posting statements on social media platform Telegram suggesting he was going to carry out an attack on the Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes, Fife.

The 24-year-old has also been accused of planning to stream live footage of “an incident”.

Giving evidence at the High Court in Edinburgh, the accused’s mother, Joyce Imrie, 50, said that while passing her son on the stairs in the family home, he had told her: “Mum, I’ve done something really stupid, I pretended to set a mosque on fire.”

Edinburgh High Court in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)
Edinburgh High Court in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Asked about her son’s demeanour when he told her this, she replied: “Terror, despair. Despair is the best word I could use. I think he was probably horrified by himself.”

The court heard that Ms Imrie had described her son as a “loner” and a “recluse”.

In her statement to police on the day after her son’s arrest, Ms Imrie said: “I would describe him as a loner who very rarely leaves his room. He has no friends, no visitors to the house, no girlfriend that I’m aware of.”

She said she did not remember making the statement, but agreed that she was telling police the truth.

The court heard that the accused had become withdrawn after becoming the victim of a serious assault at the age of 14.

He had left school, shut himself off from friends and started drinking, Ms Imrie said.

The court was shown posts on Imrie’s Facebook page of Adolf Hitler and Donald Trump.

Ms Imrie said she was not aware that her son had used the messaging app Telegram to speak with neo-Nazis in the US.

She said she would have taken steps to intervene if she thought her son was being “groomed” online.

Giving evidence on Monday, Ms Imrie initially told the court she believed her son had shaved his head because of the TV show Jackass, and its star Steve-O.

“They had buzzcuts as kids, they shaved their heads like Steve-O out of Jackass,” she said, referring to Imrie and his brother. I never even noticed.”

Asked why she thought he had shaved his head, Ms Imrie replied, “To be a fool really”, and said it had not been something that caused her concern.

But the court also heard that in her statement to police, when asked if she had concerns about her son shaving his head, she replied: “He didn’t say why (he had done it).

“I would say that it was because of his infatuation with Hitler.”

Asked about this statement, Ms Imrie said: “I don’t understand why you would say it was because of Hitler, he didn’t have a bald head.”

Ms Imrie said she was doing a course at the time, in which a class mate had made a “controversial” presentation on Adolf Hitler.

She denied that an “infatuation” inherently meant something positive. “An interest could be unhealthy as well,” she said.

She said Imrie had being doing “some research” about Hitler at the time.

The court was shown photos of swastikas drawn in a closet in Imrie’s bedroom, along with the number 1488, which is linked to white supremacism.

Ms Imrie said she could not remember seeing them.

Ms Imrie also denied raising concerns with her son about posts he made on Facebook prior to his arrest. But the court heard she had told police at the time of his arrest that she had been concerned at comments he had made on Facebook about Hitler.

The court also heard that Imrie had been in trouble with police as a teenager, after writing racist graffiti that said “f*** Muslims” on a bus stop near his home.

Giving evidence, Detective Constable Jonathan Leach, who works in counter-terrorism, told the court that Imrie had been a member of a pro-fascist group on the messaging app Telegram.

Police had accessed a Telegram channel called “@Fashwaveartists” with 279 members from various countries, including Imrie, whom DC Leach described as “potential fascists”.

They gathered 101 pages of exchanges on the app which included messages, images, videos and gifs, many of them posted by Imrie.

On the app, which is similar to WhatsApp, the accused expressed support for Brenton Tarrant, who murdered 51 people in an attack on a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand, as well as Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 terror attack in Norway.

In a post on June 30 2019, the accused had written: “I’m a talentless c*** and I’m taking a gun into a mosque.”

In a follow-up post he said: “Ignore my autistic outbursts of anger.”

On July 3 2019, he wrote: “Sick of these sub humans in our home lands” and “England and Ireland are being hit the hardest, someone needs to do something.”

He later described Breivik as: “The saviour of Europe, he killed 91 traitors in Norway in 2011 and holds the world record for greatest mass shooting ever.”

He followed this with: “77 kills btw (by the way), not 91 like I said. Still though to kill that many and only get 21 years is godly. I hope to meet him one day.

“I wrote him a letter recently, just like Saint Tarrant did.”

Among other charges, Imrie has been accused of being in possession of neo-Nazi, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim material and extreme pornography, including indecent images of children and an image involving a human corpse.

Imrie is also charged with driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol in July 2019.

He denies all of the nine charges against him, three of which come under the Terrorism Act.

The trial, before Lord Mulholland, continues.

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