Glenrothes mosque attack: Suspect said arson plan was a joke, court told

A man on trial for terrorism offences told police he threatened to burn down a mosque as a “joke”, a court has heard.

Sam Imrie has been charged with posting statements on social media platform Telegram suggesting he was going to carry out an attack on the Fife Islamic Centre in Glenrothes, Fife.

The 24-year-old has also been accused of planning to stream live footage of “an incident”.

On Thursday, the High Court in Edinburgh heard a recording of an interview carried out with the accused by police on July 8 2019.

The accused told police that he was a “white nationalist”. When asked what that meant, he replied: “It means I care about my race.”

Imrie denied that he thought white people are superior to non-whites, saying he believed the Chinese were superior.

He made no response when put to him that that view “flies in the face of white nationalism”.

The court previously heard how the accused made a series of derogatory remarks about minority groups on the messaging app Telegram.

Imrie blamed his actions on alcohol.

On posts made online, when he said he hated “jews, muslims and n*****s”, he said: “I would never say that sober.”

Asked if he thought his drinking legitimised it, he replied: “I didn’t say that.”

Asked about his visit to the Fife Islamic Centre in July 2019, which he had threatened to burn down on the Telegram app, Imrie said: “It was a joke.”

Imrie was also asked about posts in which he glorified Brenton Tarrant, the man behind the mass shooting in Christchurch, New Zealand in 2019, which claimed 51 lives, and Anders Breivik, who killed 77 people in a terror attack in Norway in 2011.

“I wouldn’t do that,” Imrie told police. He denied he saw the men as heroes.

Put to him that he had agreed with their actions in posts made online, he said he had done so “as a joke”.

Imrie agreed that members of the Telegram chat group of which he was a part had “seen through him”.

“You were never going to burn it down, it was all for show?” the interviewer asked him.

The accused replied: “Yes.”

Detective Constable Melanie Hamblett, who led the police interview with the accused, told the court Imrie had undergone a vulnerability assessment as part of standard procedure, to examine his suitability to be interviewed.

Alex Salmond court case
Sam Imrie is standing trial at the High Court in Edinburgh accused of nine offences – three of which come under the Terrorism Act (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The court heard Imrie was a self-harmer, was shown photos of cuts to his arms, and that the last such incident had happened a few months before his interview.

Imrie attempted suicide in 2018, and had been treated in hospital after consuming four litres of vodka, the court heard. He had not attempted suicide again since then.

The court also heard Imrie had previously been treated for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by a psychiatrist.

Defence solicitor advocate Jim Keegan QC put it to Ms Hamblett that the accused had co-operated throughout the police interview.

“When you went and checked there was nothing that contradicted significantly what he told you?” he said.

“Not significantly, no,” Ms Hamblett replied.

Mr Keegan continued: “He told you that he had been drinking for four hours straight, and from CCTV footage, he seems to have been drinking throughout the day on July 4.

“It bears out what he tells you about his behaviour on that particular day.

“He described himself as a white nationalist, but did not want to harm anyone of colour, or anybody else.

“He admitted collecting knives, told you he had a baseball bat in his room, told you about the nun-chuck incident where he tried it and nearly knocked himself out.”

Ms Hamblett agreed that he had.

“He also accepted he posted things about bombing people, but he discounted any intent,” Mr Keegan said.

Ms Hamblett replied: “That would be fair to say.”

Among other charges, Imrie is accused of being in possession of neo-Nazi, antisemitic and anti-Muslim material, extreme pornography, including indecent images of children, and an image involving a human corpse.

He is also charged with driving while under the influence of drugs and alcohol in July 2019.

He denies all of the nine charges against him, three of which come under the Terrorism Act.

The trial, before Lord Mulholland, continues.