Plymouth shootings were not a terrorist attack, senior police officer says
The Plymouth shooting was not a terrorist attack, a senior counterterrorism police officer said.
Shooter Jake Davison’s interest in the online incel movement was probed by investigators after he embarked on a murderous spree that claimed five lives in August.
Speaking in London on Tuesday, the Deputy Senior National Counterterrorism Police Coordinator said they concluded the shooting was not a terrorist attack.
“Incel itself is not a terrorist ideology,” Deputy Police Chief Tim Jaques told the World Counterterrorism Summit.
“You become a terrorist when you cross a threshold in terms of actions and it is about what you do or intend to do to advance this cause.
“The attack on Plymouth was not motivated by ideology, although this individual was engaged in some sort of incel thinking. That doesn’t make him a terrorist.
Mr Jaques told reporters he understood how the shooting had “looked like a terrorist attack”, due to the indiscriminate nature of the victims.
Davison, 22, shot his 51-year-old mother, Maxine Davison, also known as Maxine Chapman, in a Biddick Drive house before going out on the streets and murdering Sophie Martyn, three, and her father, Lee Martyn, 43.
During the 12-minute attack, Davison then killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park before shooting Kate Shepherd, 66, who later died in Derriford Hospital. He then committed suicide.
Devon and Cornwall Police initially said the murders were not a terrorist incident on August 12, but then fired the National Counterterrorism Network.
Mr Jaques said that a terrorist attack designation depended not only on whether someone had an ideology, but also whether the violence was to “advance that cause”.
“In the end, the investigation revealed that it had nothing to do with ideology, it was not planned, it was not done with foresight,” he added.
The officer said Davison left no notes or manifestos, which have been seen in mass shootings by extremists in other countries.
He said the incel movement was “on the radar” for the British security services but was not seen as a terrorist ideology.
Of the 31 foiled terrorist plots in Britain since March 2017, 18 have been classified as Islamists, 11 far-right and two more.
British law defines terrorism as violence aimed at influencing the government or the public in order to advance a “political, religious, racial or ideological cause”.
Incel’s ideology has been linked to several massacres in the United States before, and Davison’s Madness was the deadliest mass shooting in the UK in over a decade.
His online activity suggests that he identified himself as an incel at times, and that he has both watched and made videos and posts on related issues.
He wrote hateful messages about his mother, while complaining about the state of her life, and also became involved in gun culture and politics in the United States.
In what appeared to be Davison’s last YouTube video before the shooting, he spoke of being “shot” and “defeated by life.”
Amid questions about how Davison was able to obtain a firearms license, the government announced that applicants would be screened on social media.
All police forces in England and Wales are reviewing their current firearms application processes and assessing whether they need to review existing permits.
An investigation is already underway by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) into Davison’s possession of a shotgun and a firearms license.
He will examine why Devon and Cornwall Police returned Davison’s gun and license to him in July, after his withdrawal following an assault allegation in September 2020.
An investigation will be conducted in due course to establish the cause of death of the victims and the broader circumstances of the shooting.