The “chief propagandist” of a far-right extremist group discussed digging a tunnel in the Lake District as a base for their “operations”, a court has heard.
Kurt McGowan, of Workington, Cumbria, was jailed for seven years at Preston Crown Court on Friday for four offences of collecting terrorist information and three counts of disseminating terrorist publications.
The court heard McGowan was described as “our very own Goebbels”, a reference to Nazi Joseph Goebbels, in a group on messaging app Telegram, where he used the handle Red Church.
The 23-year-old made a heart gesture with his hands to his mother, who was in tears in the public gallery, as he was taken from the dock.
Joe Allman, prosecuting, told the court an undercover officer gained access to the Telegram group used by McGowan and between six to 12 others in August 2020.
He said: “The messages make it clear the group considered they were, or at least were in the process of forming, an active far-right cell.
“They actively discussed digging a tunnel as a base for operations, where that might be located and how it should be constructed.
“Mr McGowan suggested the Lake District for what he called its extensive woodland.”
He said McGowan also suggested they survey the national park for “phase one” of the operation.
The court heard McGowan was part of Telegram group The Hand and then Exiled393 UK.
Mr Allman said McGowan was “chief propagandist” in the group, which considered itself a para-military unit and shared views which were antisemitic, anti-muslim, misogynistic and showed extreme homophobia.
The court heard another of the themes in the group was the suggestion that “non-white” people were inferior and needed to be exterminated.
McGowan shared documents which included information about fighting techniques, instructions on manufacturing ammunition and tactics for guerilla warfare, Mr Allman said.
In March 2021 his home in Hinnings Road was searched and a mobile phone and USB stick were recovered.
Mr Allman said a number of other documents were found by officers on the Telegram app on his phone, including a “white resistance manual”, with instructions on how to build a pipe bomb, and a manual on how to manufacture a viable firearm.
The court heard in November 2020 the group discussed setting up a PayPal account to pool money for things they might need and agreed getting 3D printers to make “art”, a phrase used for firearms, was a long-term aim.
George Payne, defending, said McGowan had written a letter to the court in which he said he was “truly sorry” for the offences and had become “embroiled in a murky world that was fuelled by hate and suspicion of the other”.
McGowan, who pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing and has no previous convictions, cried in the dock during parts of his mitigation.
Mr Payne said his parents, who were both in court, had also written a letter, expressing their belief he was “at heart a good person” and had shown genuine remorse.
McGowan pleaded not guilty to two further counts of disseminating terrorist publications which were ordered to lie on the file.