Aryan Strike Force: Houses of horror revealed

White supremacists hoarded weapons in their homes

By Leon Symons, July 1, 2010
Headquarters of hate: one of the rooms in Hannington’s house in Merthyr Tydfil. Police found it bedecked with Nazi flags

Headquarters of hate: one of the rooms in Hannington’s house in Merthyr Tydfil. Police found it bedecked with Nazi flags

They were two anonymous houses in anonymous suburban terraces. But when police arrived with search warrants they found much more than three-piece suites and pictures on the mantelpiece.

Walls were adorned with Nazi flags and rooms were littered with weapons, including knives, a machine gun and rice flails. In one, a Samurai sword hung above a bed and knuckledusters were displayed like trophies.

The men who rented the houses, builder Trevor Hannington, 58, in Merthyr Tydfil, and food packer Michael Heaton, 42, in Leigh, Greater Manchester, were members of Aryan Strike Force, a sinister organisation dedicated to ridding the country of ethnic minorities - including Jews.

The founders of that group - two men whose views were so far right, they thought Hitlerite factions such as Combat 18 and Blood & Honour were too soft - believed the government was secretly run by Zionists and saw it as their duty to save the Aryan race from destruction.

They were Durham father and son Ian and Nicky Davison, who met Heaton and Hannington via the internet. Their recruits were easily seduced by the virulent antisemitism in the postings they saw on the ASF website.

Heaton, a so-called "street fighter", and Hannington were fascinated by the infamous Tsarist forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Hannington was later described by a judge as "a lonely man with little in his life". He tried to impress Davison by lying about an army career and claiming he was a survival expert.

All four began writing to each other using pseudonyms: Heaton was "Wigan Mike" and Hannington "The Fist of Wrath".

Their web postings were as extreme as any police had encountered. The forums were read by around 300 members throughout Australia, Canada and Northern Europe.

Nicky Davison, 19, told them: "As true national socialists we have a duty to fight against this. Whether it's in the boardroom or on the streets, we will resist, we will fight. Whether we are one or a million, we will stay loyal and continue the fight."

Hannington also posted, saying: "I would encourage any religion or race that wants to destroy the Jews. I hate them with a passion."

In another, he wrote: "They will always be scum. Destroy 'em with whatever it takes."

Heaton posted more than 3,000 times before he and Davison fell out, and he left to form his own group.

But what none of them knew was that every posting and every conversation was being monitored. Police had secretly hacked into the ASF website and Davison's private email.

When officers saw a video of pipe bombs being detonated, they raided Davison's house in Myrtle Grove, Burningfield, Durham.

During a search they found that he had bought castor beans from America and several other items which together constituted a recipe for the deadly toxin, ricin.

They say they found enough of it
in a jar in his kitchen to kill up to 15 people.

Davison later became the first person in Britain to be jailed under the Chemical Weapons Act when he got 10 years at Newcastle Crown Court. His son was jailed for two years after being found guilty of possessing terrorist manuals.

Heaton and Hannington faced a separate trial in Liverpool. Heaton was convicted of using threatening, abusive or insulting words likely to stir up racial hatred and was jailed for two and a half years. Hannington was jailed for two years after admitting stirring up racial hatred, possessing information likely to aid terrorism and disseminating a terrorist publication.

The jury cleared them of soliciting to murder Jews.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Irwin, told Heaton that his posts were "vicious and repulsive".

He said: "You wanted to start a race war. You are clearly filled with racial hatred and also with violent and angry beliefs."

And he told Hannington: "You are a long-standing racist who has never hidden your views, which are violent and vicious in the extreme.

"You are a lonely man with little in your life. You are to some degree pitiable in this, however repugnant what you said."

Det Ch Supt David Buxton, head of the North East Counter Terrorism Unit, later described the pair as "obsessive".

He said: "Heaton and Hannington are white supremacists. They peddled hatred against innocent people purely on the basis of their ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion and culture.

"Their intolerance goes way beyond offensive posts on the forums. They used every opportunity to encourage violent attacks against anyone they took exception to.

"This was not simply online bravado or the open expression of extreme views. They were in possession of information about how to create explosive devices and harm others using weapons and unarmed techniques. They also became increasingly volatile as time went on.

"Heaton considered himself a 'street fighter'. He called on like-minded individuals to 'fight for the cause' and take action against non-whites. Hannington actively promoted violence and called for 'military action' against mosques and synagogues."

Police also discovered evidence of training camps in Cumbria. He added: "That's a step beyond keyboard members. They were taking things to a greater level."

Historian Dr Matthew Feldman of Northampton University was called to the trials as an expert witness. He said later: "I am often asked how dangerous they were. The ASF is violent, antisemitic and racist."

He believed the ASF was true to British traditions, even though its political ideology originated in Germany.

"Its members were born and raised in Britain and they very much want to keep that up.

"They won't support Germany over England or Britain in something like the World Cup. But they draw their political bearings from Germany's neo-Nazis."

The CST attacked the leniency of the sentences. A spokesman said: "When hardened neo-Nazis say 'kill the Jews' and 'burn the scum', they are not saying it for fun: they are saying it because they mean it.

"We are very disappointed therefore at the outcome of this trial and the sentences that have been passed."

The ASF website has since been closed and the pair's computers and weapons have been destroyed.

But police insist that the hunt for extremists is far from over. They are still investigating other names known to have used the ASF forums.

Last updated: 11:20am, July 2 2010