Man 'obsessed' with Manchester Arena bombing planned to blow up mosque

Steven Bishop, 41, of Thornton Heath, south London, had instructions on how to build explosivesSteven Bishop, 41, of Thornton Heath, south London, had instructions on how to build explosives
Steven Bishop, 41, of Thornton Heath, south London, had instructions on how to build explosives
A man who hoarded fireworks in a plot to bomb a south London mosque after becoming fixated on the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena attack is facing jail.

Steven Bishop, 41, of Thornton Heath, south London, had instructions on how to build explosives when he was arrested by counter terror police after he revealed his plans to his key worker.

He had researched the Manchester, London Bridge and Paris terror attacks using a phone he bought on October 18.

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Bishop had also repeatedly searched for memorials to the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena attack - eight-year-old Saffie-Rose Roussos, from Leyland.

Items found by policeItems found by police
Items found by police

On October 23 last year, he made a £40 donation to the Manchester Emergency Fund set up on the website Just Giving with the comment: "So sad that this happened to little kids."

A second donation for the same amount made the same day was accompanied by the comment: "I'm in love with my buitiful [sic] Saffie god bless you xx."

Bishop also searched the "Find a Grave" website looking for Saffie-Rose's resting place.

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He commented "god bless little Saffie" on a Facebook video called "Standing for Britain" which featured some of the victims of the Manchester attack, adding: "Don't worry something bad is going to happen soon mark my words."

He had researched explosive detonators, made a set of handwritten notes and searched online for the Morden mosque, detectives discovered.

Bishop, who has a history of mental health problems, was arrested on October 29, 2018 after he showed one of his key workers images of objects he said he was collecting to build "a bomb" to target a mosque.

Bishop denied preparation of an act of terrorism, but admitted an alternative charge of possession of an explosive substance with intent to endanger life or cause damage to property on the first day of his trial at Kingston Crown Court.

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He previously admitted a charge of possession of information likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism. Judge Peter Lodder QC is due to pass sentence on Wednesday afternoon.

At his sentencing hearing, the court heard Bishop had initially told police he had fireworks to let off at his mother's house in south-west London.

But when detectives searched his room in sheltered accommodation they found some fireworks which had been tampered with, along with fuses, a remote control and ignitor.

Although available to the public, the fireworks were classed as "commercial" because they were of a size used in professional pyrotechnic displays.

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A firing device was also delivered to his address two days after his arrest.

Following the search, he told officers he was "really upset" about the Manchester attack, adding: "All I was saying is I think it would be justice if someone did to them what they do to us."

As he was driven to the police station, he repeatedly asked officers about the Manchester attack.

He told them: "I'll tell the police everything. I hear voices. I heard the voice of a victim of the Manchester Arena bombing who told me to do this."

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Bishop added that he had been hearing the voice of a "young girl" and also asked them if people were still hanged for terrorism.

A search of his phone uncovered two VPN apps, designed to disguise online activity, which were used to research explosive detonators and the Morden mosque.

Further searches at his mother's house revealed components for making incendiary devices hidden in a suitcase in the garden shed.

Bishop's notes contained detailed information on how to make various explosive substances, as well as information on how to access the dark web.

He was charged a week after his arrest on November 5 2018.

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Prosecutor Dan Pawson-Pounds said: "[The defendant] accepts that at the time between the date of purchase and their seizure by police, he contemplated their use in an act of retaliation against those he considered responsible for the Manchester Arena bombing.

"His contemplation specifically involved the targeting of Morden Mosque in particular."

He added: "Much as he never formed the final intent actually to carry out the act against the mosque at any particular point, he accepts that he carried out acts preparatory to it, and in contemplation of it."

The court heard that Bishop's psychiatric disorders include paranoid schizophrenia, ADHD, a possible learning difficulty and drug abuse.

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He has 18 previous convictions for 34 offences including racially aggravated common assault.

Timothy Forte, for Bishop, argued that his client's actions were driven by his fixation on Saffie-Rose and not by far-right ideology.

"It is only ever be about Saffie. There no expression of anti-Islamic feeling," he said.

"It was about Saffie - be it voices coming from her or about her or his feelings of upset at the bombing and her death specifically - it clearly affected him.

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"It all goes to underscore that there's on his part no ideology. He's not pressing an ideological cause.

"He's not seeking to obtain a white Britain or a Muslim-free country. He was seeking in his non-functioning manner to exact revenge for the death of an eight-year-old girl and the Crown can't demonstrate an ideological cause."

Mr Forte described Bishop's plan to target Morden Mosque as an act of "transferred malice" by an "unstable drug addict".

The court heard Bishop's benefits had recently been increased to £1,500 but had otherwise been left largely to his own devices, leading to an increase in his drug abuse.

Mr Forte said the offence was "not terror connected" adding that he was someone who posed "little danger to anyone but himself".