Plymouth mass shooting could be reclassified as terror attack, police say

16 August 2021, 20:16 | Updated: 16 August 2021, 22:45

Jake Davison, 22, shot and killed five people in Plymouth last week.
Jake Davison, 22, shot and killed five people in Plymouth last week. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

The devastating mass shooting in Plymouth could be reclassified as a terror attack as police investigate the gunman's links to the "incel" movement.

Jake Davison, who shot and killed five people in Plymouth last Thursday, including his own mother and a three-year-old girl, appeared to have an interest in the "involuntary celibate" culture on his social media pages.

Davison, 22, went on a 12-minute killing spree in Keyham, shooting his 51-year-old mother Maxine Davison at a house in Biddick Drive before he went into the street and shot dead Sophie Martyn, aged three, and her father, Lee Martyn, 43.

Read more: Jake Davison named as killer of five, including girl aged three

Read more: 'Unspeakably awful': Community grieves after six die in Plymouth shooting

The apprentice crane operator then killed Stephen Washington, 59, in a nearby park before shooting 66-year-old Kate Shepherd and then taking his own life.

Speaking in the aftermath of the attack, Devon and Cornwall Police chief constable Shaun Sawyer said the force was "not considering terrorism or a relationship with any far-right group".

In a statement on Monday, the force said: "The decision that this incident is not a terrorist incident was made by the National Counter Terrorism Network following a referral from Devon and Cornwall Police.

"The status of this will be kept under continual review and a further referral made should new information come to light.

"We are aware of Davison's interest and engagement with the Incel movement and his use of various online platforms, and this forms a key strand within the ongoing police investigation."

Read more: Plymouth shooting: Police forces asked to review firearms application processes

Terrorism is defined as the "use or threat of action, both in and outside of the UK, designed to influence any international government organisation or to intimidate the public. It must also be for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, racial or ideological cause".

The "incel" movement is a dangerous online subculture comprising of men who identify as ‘involuntary celibates’ and regularly express deeply misogynistic views about women.

The misogynistic ideology has amassed a following online among some men who feel they are being oppressed by women due to a perceived lack of sexual interest.

Davison's killing spree has prompted a discussion over whether or not "incel" violence should be treated as a hate crime, with experts disagreeing on the way forward.

Read more: 'Incels encourage each other to do exactly what Jake Davison has done'

The government is likely to consider treating so-called "incels" as terrorists if there are more attacks like the Plymouth shootings, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation said.

Nazir Afzal, a former chief crown prosecutor for the North West, said there were 10,000 people with incel views like Davison in the country.

"That kind of extreme misogyny of the type we have seen here and in terms of the incel community is a threat to all women and, ultimately, to all our communities," he said.

Read more: Jake Davison: Plymouth gunman posted YouTube videos before shootings

Davison, a firearms licence holder, had also signed up to a YouTube channel which said it contained "black pill and lookism" content.

Lookism is described as prejudice on the ground of someone's appearance while "black pill" philosophy is considered to be a view where someone's success with the opposite sex is determined at birth.

YouTube confirmed Jake Davison's account had been taken down because of a violation of its offline behaviour policy, while Facebook also said accounts belonging to him have been removed.