Jail for bomb plotter obsessed with youngest victim of Manchester Arena attack
A man obsessed with the death of the youngest victim of the Manchester Arena attack has been jailed for four years for plotting to bomb a south London mosque.
Steven Bishop, 41, stockpiled fireworks, looked online how to build explosives, and searched for a mosque to target in Morden.
He looked up the Manchester, London Bridge and Paris terror attacks on a phone he bought in October last year, and repeatedly searching for memorials to Saffie-Rose Roussos.
The eight-year-old girl was the youngest person killed when Salman Abedi targeted an Ariana Grande concert in May 2017.
Bishop also searched the “Find a Grave” website looking for her resting place and commented about her on a Facebook video featuring victims of the Manchester attack – writing: “Don’t worry something bad is going to happen soon mark my words.”
He made two £40 donations on a Just Giving page in dedication to her, writing: “I’m in love with my buitiful [sic] Saffie god bless you xx.”
His room in sheltered housing was raided by counter-terror police on 29 October last year after he showed his support worker images of objects he said he was going to use to make a bomb.
The court heard that, when detectives searched his room, they found fireworks that had been tampered with, fuses, a remote control and igniter. A firing device was also delivered to his home two days after he was arrested.
Bishop, a drug user with mental health problems, had told police a voice of a Manchester victim had told him “to do this”.
He has 18 previous convictions, including for racially aggravated common assault.
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. He also admitted a charge of possession of information likely to be useful to a person preparing an act of terrorism.
The court heard that Bishop’s mental health conditions include paranoid schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, a possible learning difficulty and drug abuse.
Judge Peter Lodder QC said: “The detonation of one or more of these fireworks at Morden mosque may have risked the lives of those nearby.”
He added: “The incendiary effect of one or more of these fireworks could have caused significant damage to the building and nearby infrastructure.
“It is submitted that you are so far out of your depth that it is absurd and that the mosque was never truly in danger.
“In that context you are contrasted with a determined and dedicated terrorist. But terrorist acts are not limited to those who do not have similar vulnerabilities to you.
“I am satisfied that count one is properly deceived as connected to terrorism.”
The judge added: “The seriousness of the offending is reduced by your medical history, but I do not find that your condition at the time of offending was substantially reduced by mental disorder or learning disability.”
Bishop was handed four years for possession of explosives, two years concurrent for possession of terrorist documents, plus one day concurrent for breach of a conditional discharge.
Timothy Forte, representing Bishop, argued that his client’s actions were driven by his fixation on Saffie-Rose and not by far-right ideology.
He said: “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.”
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