An A-level student who was photographed doing Nazi salutes faces prison after being found guilty of downloading and sharing terrorism documents – including instructions on how to make weapons.
Malakai Wheeler, of Swindon, Wiltshire, was convicted by a jury at Winchester Crown Court of six charges, including possessing copies of the Terrorist Handbook, the Anarchist’s Handbook and a document called Homemade Detonators.
He was also convicted of sharing 92 documents and 35 images in a chatroom, as well as two other charges of sharing instructions for the use of items that could be used to perform acts of terrorism, including smoke grenades.
The 18-year-old told the court he had an interest in national socialism as well as anti-Zionism and admitted using a Nazi swastika as part of his profile image on the social media platform Telegram.
He told the court he downloaded the documents because he wanted to create an archive of items he believed would be deleted altogether from Telegram and the internet.
Explaining why he downloaded instructions on how to make weapons, he said they could have been useful in the case of “social disorder”.
He said: “Weapons could be useful if there was a serious emergency. Covid showed things could come out of the blue. It could be an economic problem or a foreign invasion – things can just pop out of nowhere.”
Wheeler also said he accessed a file called 100 Deadly Skills because he felt they could have been useful – with their descriptions of techniques to escape from a hotel or “stop yourself from drowning if you were tied up in the water”.
He said he read one of the documents, Allied Sabotage Devices, because of a “historical interest” in the Second World War and found it “mildly interesting”.
He also admitted downloading a file called Werewolves Of The Third Reich, a reference to a division of the SS in the war.
And he accepted being photographed in a skull mask and doing a Nazi salute.
Describing his links to national socialism, he said: “I have an interest and sympathy with some of it but not all of it.”
He denied being a white supremacist.
Wheeler said he accessed videos from the terrorist group calling itself Islamic State, which showed people being killed, out of “morbid curiosity”, adding: “It’s not something you see in every day life.”
Judge Jane Miller KC adjourned the case for a pre-sentence report to be prepared on the defendant and remanded him in custody until November 3, when he will be sentenced.
She told Wheeler: “I am afraid this will be a custodial sentence although you were 16 when you committed these offences.”
Detective Chief Superintendent James Dunkerley, head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, said: “Although only 16 at the time of his arrest, Wheeler was deeply entrenched in a Telegram chat group committed to extreme right-wing ideology.
“He was not simply curious, or a passive observer within the group. He clearly shared the same mindset as other members and was very active when it came to promoting racist and antisemitic views and propaganda.
“It is important young people recognise the potential impact of their online activity, before they cross a line into criminality, or engage in harmful or dangerous behaviours.”