Man who ‘wanted to join Isis’ is jailed for firearms offences

Gavin Rae
Gavin Rae
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“IT’S quite clear he was going to do something dangerous with those weapons.”

Those were the words of a senior terrorism detective as a Preston man was beginning an 18-year jail term after attempting to buy guns as he sought vengeance for what he saw as society’s ills.

Gavin Rae, 36, was sentenced by a judge at the Old Bailey. Mr Justice Sweeney told him: “I am sure that as the prosecution alleged throughout your trial, you decided to gain possession of working firearms and a quantity of ammunition so that if it became in your view necessary you could use them to enable you to take the children from this country by force and go on to take part in fighting abroad in support of the extremist Islamic ideas that you espoused in a number of recordings by undercover officers.”

The judge told Rae that he had been convicted on “overwhelming evidence” and he had no doubt that he was a dangerous offender.

Throughout the hearing, Rae, who appeared via video link from Manchester, wept with his head buried in his hand.

In a letter written to Mr Justice Sweeney ahead of his sentencing, Rae expressed “regret and shame” for what he did.

The court heard he continued to deny intending to take his family to Syria.

During his two-week trial, Preston Crown Court heard after Gavin Rae converted to Islam in 2012,

Speaking about Britain he told an undercover security operative: “It’s full of paedophiles, sex people. It’s horrible. Filthy mate. Filthy. Females, the women, the women are filthy you know. Disgusting.”

Det Chief Supt Tony Mole of the North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCTU) said: “It’s difficult to say what he was going to do with these firearms after he purchased him.

“What I can say is he was a dangerous individual in my view – he had previous military training which makes anyone with firearms dangerous in their own right – they know what they’re doing.

“He’s also had previous convictions for violent offences, and he certainly had sympathies towards Daesh and grievances against society because he thought he was being picked on due to his religion.

“That whole combination makes him a dangerous man to be carrying firearms and live ammunition, and the sentence reflects that.

“The offences themselves are not terrorist, but it’s quite clear he was going to do something dangerous with those weapons.”

Rae told an undercover security operative who befriended him: “It’s not gonna be long now before Islam will come to the shores of this country.”

Now known as Yaqub Rae, he had served in the Kings Division of the British Army between 1997 and 1998, stationed in Cyprus, but before he saw any active service he failed a drug test and was given a dishonourable discharge.

He then embarked on a life of crime and was jailed for 10 years in 2003 for a string of gunpoint robberies at shops across Greater Manchester.

On his release he set up a self-employed business as a labourer in Preston.

But in July 2014, Rae’s behaviour raised suspicions with the authorities who feared he was trying to travel to Syria.

Dressed in combat gear, he was stopped at Manchester Airport trying to board a flight to Cyprus after his suitcase was searched and medical bandages, water filters and a portable shower’ were found – items intelligence agencies say have been linked to other people trying to get to Syria.

Rae had insisted the contents were for ‘humanitarian purposes’.

But in July 2015 Rae was again on the radar when he was brought back to the UK after being refused entry to Turkey – which neighbours war-torn Syria – having travelled via Paris, Marrakech and Casablanca.

Concerned authorities mounted an undercover investigation.

Rae had been an enthusiastic Christian for several months before changing his mind and converting to Islam in 2012, sources told the Evening Post. He had been living a transient life, staying in various hostels as he worked for an agency as a railway labourer.

It was on one of these jobs, following his failed trip to Turkey, that undercover officers befriended him.

Rae was working in Edinburgh when an operative, posing as “Tony”, a fellow Muslim from Eastern Europe, developed a friendship with him.

Before long Rae was discussing his extremist views, and showing him videos supporting radical group Daesh – also known as ISIS – on his phone.

He voiced his distaste at the Kuffar – non-believers – and spoke of his belief that the world should trade in gold and not currency.

The friends would pray together in their hostel rooms and go out to eat together and Rae expressed an interest in moving to Albania, where the undercover officer purported to be from.

He had also promised he would “go and sacrifice my life for Allah...” once he had taken his family to a Muslim country.

Within a week Rae had asked his new friend to help him leave the country and help him find a man with a good knowledge of guns who could return a decommissioned gun to a working one.

He was put in touch with a second contact – another undercover operative known as Hamza – whom he met at a retail park in Oxford in October 2015.

In subsequent conversations he arranged to pay £850 for a working gun with a silencer and ammunition. By this stage he was using the code words ‘car’ and ‘sweeties’ to refer to guns and ammunition in his texts.

In November last year Hamza, drove him to a Travelodge in Cheshire to meet a third man - also a police operative - who would supply the weapon.

Rae was also shown a Glock, which he agreed to buy at a later date, and requested a deactivated Uzi sub machine gun to be converted back into a working one.

But around six armed officers swooped on him as he made the transaction.

Rae’s sister Lyndsay, a mum-of-two from Plungington, revealed he was born on a British Army base in Germany as his father was a serving soldier. One of four children, he grew up as a farmer’s son and later lived in Manchester.

He moved to Preston to be near his older and younger sister, who both run businesses in the county, and had lived in a rented house. It is understood he had attended mosques in the city.