Two teenage boys from North Yorkshire were today found guilty of conspiracy to murder after a trial at Leeds Crown Court. They will be sentenced in July.
They were plotting a Columbine-inspired shooting at their school in Northallerton, North Yorkshire.
The teenagers, both 15, sat motionless alongside their tearful mothers as the verdicts were read to them today.
The older boy, wearing a shirt, was also convicted of unlawful wounding, but cleared of a count of aggravated burglary.
During the three-week trial, prosecutors claimed that the pair “hero-worshipped” Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenagers responsible for murdering 13 people at Columbine High School, Colorado, in 1999.
Jurors heard how the boys had prepared a “hit list” of people they wanted to kill, including fellow students and teachers who had supposedly bullied or wronged them. Analysis of their devices showed that they had researched weapons online and had both downloaded a bomb-making manual.
Head of Counter Terrorism Policing North East, Detective Superintendent Martin Snowden, said after the case: “This is a deeply unsettling case and the cause of significant concern for all associated with it.
"The impact of it has been felt profoundly by the staff at the school, its pupils and their parents, and indeed the local community.
“We are extremely grateful for their support and the assistance we have received from North Yorkshire Police and the local authority during the course of our investigation.
“Following this trial, two boys (who cannot be named for legal reasons) have been found guilty of a number of extremely serious offences, not least conspiracy to murder.
"There is no understating the severity of these offences and the potential implications had their plans not come to the attention of the authorities.
“These boys demonstrated a very real interest in violence and had both expressed a desire to act out their fascinations.
'Gone beyond fantasy'
"Disturbingly, they had gone beyond the fantasy and had begun to take very real steps towards making it a reality. They’d conducted research online, created a plan and identified potential targets. They’d looked into weapons, how they could get hold of them and where they could be stored.
“Whatever their motivation, the intent of the defendants and the direction of their actions, placed others at risk. Thankfully, we’ll never know if they’d have followed through with their plan. We’re grateful that people were concerned enough to report the boys behaviour, a fuller picture of which ultimately led to their arrest.
“Young people in particular are vulnerable to external influences, both in the real world and online, which can shape their views and influence their actions.
"While these influences are very difficult to control, it’s important we’re alive to the display of attitudes or behaviour which concern us and have the confidence to report them. On this occasion, those who came forward may ultimately have saved lives.”
Det Supt Allen Harder, North Yorkshire Police Head of Safeguarding and Stuart Carlton, Director of Children’s and Young Peoples service for North Yorkshire County Council said:
“Although this case has reached its conclusion, we acknowledge that many people have been deeply affected and that it has had a significant impact on a small rural town and a school community.
“The local communities have shown great resilience throughout this unsettling time and we thank everyone for their support in helping us to work together as safeguarding agencies, to deliver the best possible support in a timely manner, to those who have really needed us.
“We want to reassure the school community and the wider public that the health and wellbeing of young people and their families will remain at the top of our agenda.
“Safeguarding of children, young people and their families is a priority for all agencies in North Yorkshire. We will continue to work together, to deliver support to all those affected by this event in the weeks and months to come.
“This is a strong community which is committed to its young people and we know we can all pull together to help them to move on with confidence from these difficult times.
“The public of North Yorkshire are our eyes and ears. We ask that you look out for one another, talk to each other, and encourage each other to come forward and talk to the police if you have concerns about any suspicious activity – be it online, in your local area or any location across North Yorkshire.
“We are here to help. We will listen to your concerns and make sure any necessary action is taken and appropriate support is provided."