One of the accused young men who planned a school shooting South Australia. Picture: Facebook
One of the accused young men who planned a school shooting South Australia. Picture: Facebook

‘Columbine-obsessed’ kids’ Aussie school massacre plot

Two young South Australians are facing up to 12 years in prison for threatening to kill their classmates and teachers in a Columbine-style mass shooting at their high school.

The boys, aged 17 and 20, were arrested in November 2017 after making threats to attack a school in Riverland, in the state's southeast, using a combination of homemade explosives, firearms and hand-to-hand weapons.

But lawyers representing the young men have argued they had no intention of following through on their threats, saying it was just a "dark fantasy" concocted to cope with bullying and trauma.

The sentencing submissions were made ahead of the 20th anniversary of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre which, the South Australian Supreme Court heard, the boys were "obsessed" with.

'COLUMBINE-OBSESSED' BOYS' SCHOOL MASSACRE PLOT

In November 2017, police thwarted what they called a plot by the two to massacre students and staff at their Riverland school.

They alleged the boys, who were 18 and 16 years old at the time, planned to attack the school using a combination of guns, knives and homemade explosives.

It was alleged the pair intended to block the school's exits with napalm and homemade bombs, then use firearms and other weapons to commit mass murder.

They were accused of having planned the attack since June that year.

The younger boy was arrested on November 7, 2017, after police conducted a search of his home, where they found prohibited weapons, homemade body armour and materials that could be used to make bombs. The older boy was arrested the same day.

In March this year, both boys pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of aggravated threatening of life, carrying a maximum 12-year jail term, The Advertiser reported.

On Wednesday, the South Australian Supreme Court heard the boys had an "obsessive interest" in high school shootings, including the Columbine massacre and an American Horror Story episode depicting a mass school shooting.

They were also dressed up as school shooters for Halloween, wearing long trench coats, when they made their threats.

The court heard this obsession earned the older boy demeaning nicknames, but his fellow students never saw him as a serious threat before his arrest.

The principal of the school told the court the incident had devastated the community, leaving parents terrified for their children's safety, and embarrassed staff members forced to defend the school's reputation.

'THIS WAS NOT INTENDED TO BE CARRIED OUT'

One of the two boys who pleaded guilty to planning the massacre had no intention of actually carrying it out, the court heard on Wednesday.

Bill Boucaut SC, for the 20-year-old, said the boy kept a diary in which he fantasised about carrying out the threat "to get back at students who physically and verbally bullied" him for his "emo" style.

But he said his client did not intend on going through with it.

"There was never an intention to carry anything out," Mr Boucaut said. "This was his mechanism to get back at … an entrenched regime of bullying that he was subjected to at school.

"Yes, there were threats, and yes, that's bad, and understandably that's going to cause significant community concerns … but it has to be understood that this was not anything intended to be carried out."

He described the boy's lifestyle as "different to what you'd expect from a teen in a country town", noting he had a troubled family upbringing.

The former school student turned to alcohol and cannabis to cope with his suffering, including the bullying he faced from his peers.

 

The older of the two accused of plotting a high school massacre in South Australia. Picture: Facebook
The older of the two accused of plotting a high school massacre in South Australia. Picture: Facebook

 

Mr Boucaut called for the boy to be released immediately, saying: "He has, in my submission, done his time - well and truly."

He also said the 20-year-old was not involved in attempting to source firearms, nor in manufacturing body armour, homemade napalm or a molotov cocktail.

These acts, he said, were carried out by the younger offender.

Stephen Milsteed, for the 17-year-old, called for him to be released into the community to live with his mother.

He said the youth suffered a difficult upbringing and bonded with the older boy over alcohol and cannabis as "outcasts from the mainstream".

He conceded the defendant had built "crude" body armour and weapons, but said none of these activities were connected to the threats made against students and there was "no intention to murder or harm anyone".

Mr Milsteed said there was evidence his client had made knives and armour as a hobby since he was 14 years old, and that the weapons were just an extension of his "hobby".

He also claimed the napalm found in the boy's home was not meant to cause harm.

"He found napalm was ideal for forging steel because of the intense heat it generates and the long period of time it remains inflammable," he said.

"It was in that context he made napalm, not for the purposes of causing harm to anyone."

He also said his client intended to ignite the molotov cocktail as part of Halloween celebrations while intoxicated.

While he conceded the pair did attempt to acquire firearms, he said his client only did so to "pose on social media" and "demonstrate that they were people to be reckoned with", rather than use them to commit murder.

The boys will be sentenced on May 23.


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