A teenager accused of plotting a Columbine-inspired massacre at his former school in Loughborough has walked free from court after the collapse of his third trial. The jury in the trial of Michael Piggin, 18, failed to reach a verdict after deliberating for nearly 60 hours over 12 days at the Old Bailey in London.
Prosecutors said immediately afterwards that they would not seek a further retrial of the teenager, who first faced court last October, accused of planning to carry out a murderous attack on his former school, a cinema, a mosque and a council office near his home in the Midlands.
Piggin had earlier pleaded guilty to stockpiling weapons, including petrol bombs and component parts of pipe bombs, but consistently denied he intended to carry out an attack. The collapse of the third trial meant Piggin, who has Asperger’s syndrome, was free to leave the dock of the Old Bailey on Friday afternoon, although he must return to the court on 13 June to be sentenced for possessing explosives.
Over 10 weeks of evidence, the trial heard how Piggin allegedly drew up tactics for what he called “Operation: The New Columbine” in a notebook emblazoned with a Nazi swastika and the face of Che Guevara. The notebook allegedly contained a “hit list” which included his former school, a mosque, a cinema and other buildings among his supposed targets.
Piggin came to the attention of police by chance in February 2012, when he was arrested over a schoolboy skirmish and officers carried out a routine search of his bedroom. Behind his Liverpool football club curtains, detectives found a machete, a high-powered crossbow and catapult, airguns, a gas mask, flak jacket, small gas cylinders, adapted plastic pipes and tubes and an envelope containing fuse wire, the court heard.
Giving evidence in April, the quietly spoken teenager admitted he had a “strong interest in mass killings” but denied planning to carry out an attack, saying it was only a fantasy to help him cope with bullying. He said he had drawn up a hit list because “it got that stuff off my mind”.
Dressed in a blue hooded top and an Arctic Monkeys T-shirt, Piggin said he could relate to the Columbine high school killers because of the bullying – but insisted he never planned to carry out a similar operation. “There were similarities with the bullying but that was pretty much where it stopped,” he said.
He said he kept weapons because he thought it was cool and “didn’t have a problem with Muslims in general”, despite his neo-Nazi salutes and daubing of anti-Mosque graffiti outside a Loughborough leisure centre.
He never genuinely believed he would be a martyr, he admitted. “Deep down I knew it wouldn’t happen,” he told jurors.
The collapse of a third trial will raise questions for police and prosecutors. At his first trial, before he turned 18, jurors were discharged after failing to reach verdicts. A second trial, in March, collapsed within days when two jurors had to be discharged.
The fresh jury of six men and four women which had been deliberating since 13 May was discharged on Friday afternoon after being unable to reach verdicts. Prosecutor Gareth Patterson told the court: “If this jury cannot return verdicts that will be the conclusion of proceedings.”
See also “Michael Piggin terror retrial: Jury fails to reach verdict”, BBC News, 30 May 2014