I helped stop a far-right terror plot. Are UK police ready for the next one? | Matthew Collins | Opinion


Robbie Mullen joined the neo-Nazi group National Action in 2015. He’d been impressed by what he had seen of it in the media. He was angry at the world. And he was in search of friends. But he contacted the organisation I work for, Hope not Hate, in April 2017 when he realised that National Action was turning to terrorism. He came to us because, unlike the authorities, we’d never stopped going after the group after it was banned by the home secretary in December 2016.

Robbie’s story – of how he came to be a member of National Action, how he foiled Jack Renshaw’s plot to murder an MP, and how he has been treated by the authorities – can tell us so much about the threat posed by the far right today.

In March 2017, three months after the group was banned because it had publicly venerated the killer of Jo Cox MP, we exposed National Action’s efforts to regroup and reform under new names but with even more violent intent. It was one of the sparks that prompted Robbie to send us an email out of the blue offering some nuggets of information.

We are used to meeting with members of far-right groups who want to pass on information or become “informers”. Not everyone passes the test, and it is not something we advertise very often. Those who do come to us, like Robbie Mullen, are treated with dignity and respect and we work on an exit plan for them. One day he would walk away, but in the meantime he wanted to supply information that would break the organisation.

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Robbie helped us put together an accurate picture of the group’s new dynamics. More than anything, we were impressed by the sheer extent to which the group had gone underground and how sophisticated it had been in doing so.

What Robbie had realised very early on after the government ban was that National Action was planning for what we would come to know as “white jihad” and that it had become an ever more likely eventuality.

In 2016 Jack Renshaw had emerged as the group’s “mouthpiece”. Despite his boyish demeanour, Renshaw was and is a nasty piece of work. He made horrendous speeches about immigrants and, in particular, Jews. In January 2017, Renshaw was arrested for two speeches he made in 2016. During both speeches, he described Jews and immigrants as vermin. During one speech he actively encouraged people to “eradicate” Jews.

Jack Renshaw.



‘Jack Renshaw had attended a meeting in the Warrington pub to
declare his intention to murder his local MP.’ Photograph: BBC

Following his arrest, Renshaw was informed by the police that they had found evidence on his mobile phones that suggested he was grooming young boys for sex. (He would later claim, when convicted of that crime in June 2018, that Hope not Hate had hacked his phones as part of a Jewish conspiracy against him. Independent experts rubbished the notion that this was even possible.)

Now worried that he would go to prison for grooming and be forever remembered by the far right as a sex offender, Renshaw began plotting. He bought a 19-inch machete and began researching the police officer, Victoria Henderson, who was investigating both his racist speeches and the grooming offences. Determined to make a mark, he even used Google to research the slowest and most painful methods of murder.

On 1 July 2017 I was on holiday when I received a message late at night from Mullen, telling me to contact him “ASAP”. What unfolded was a story that was to change his life forever. Earlier that evening Jack Renshaw had attended a meeting in the Warrington pub to declare his intention to murder his local MP, Rosie Cooper. After killing Cooper, Renshaw would lure the police officer, Victoria Henderson, to meet him and then kill her too. Having murdered both women, he would force the police to shoot him, donning a fake “bomb vest” similar to those worn by suicide bombers attached to groups such as Islamic State.

The phone conversation I had with Mullen that night set in train a series of frantic calls which ended with arrests across the country and a series of trials. More than a dozen National Action members are now in jail because of Robbie’s actions – and two people are alive today.

Questions have been, and should be, asked of the police. They didn’t know National Action was still operating after the ban. Why not? They weren’t tracking the violent threat from the likes of Renshaw. When we brought them the information about the plot, they threatened me and Hope not Hate’s chief executive Nick Lowles with arrest for being in touch with a member of a banned organisation.

Now the threat from far-right violence is spiking. Fifty people lie dead in Christchurch after the terror attacks there. We can only hope that the authorities are ready for the next Jack Renshaw, and the one after him, and the one after him.

This is a dark story: of Nazis, murder and despair. But Robbie’s story is also one of hope. Even in the darkest of pits of hatred, there is a spark of light in everyone. It is never too late to turn away from violence and do the right thing. Robbie took a decision that turned his life upside-down. He has a long journey ahead of him, and we’ll be there to help him make it. But his first steps in that journey saved lives, and I am proud to know him.

Matthew Collins is head of intelligence at Hope not Hate. You can support the organisation’s work here



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