Man, 22, cleared of plotting to carry out ‘spree killing’ inspired by ‘incel’ movement

An internet obsessive has been convicted of having weapons including a crossbow and machete but cleared of plotting to carry out ‘a spree killing’ inspired by the ‘involuntary celibate’ movement. 

Gabrielle Friel, 22, was found guilty by majority of having a crossbow, scope, crossbow arrows, a machete and a ballistic vest at various locations in Edinburgh between June 1 and August 16 last year.  

They included his home, a social work centre and a hospital, in circumstances giving rise to the reasonable suspicion that possessing these was for a purpose connected with terrorism.

However, Friel was cleared by majority verdict of preparing for terrorist acts by conducting online research in relation to spree killings, particularly those expressing motivation or affiliation for incels.  

He had been accused of having ‘expressed affinity with and sympathy for one incel-motivated mass murderer’ and to have expressed ‘a desire to carry out a spree killing mass murder’.

Followers in the incel movement blame attractive men and women for their inability to find a sexual partner. 

The subculture first turned violent when American Elliot Rodger murdered six of his fellow students before killing himself at the University of California in May 2014.   

Gabrielle Frield, 22, has been convicted of having weapons including a crossbow and machete but cleared of plotting to carry out 'a spree killing' inspired by the 'involuntary celibate' movement

Gabrielle Frield, 22, has been convicted of having weapons including a crossbow and machete but cleared of plotting to carry out 'a spree killing' inspired by the 'involuntary celibate' movement

Gabrielle Frield, 22, has been convicted of having weapons including a crossbow and machete but cleared of plotting to carry out ‘a spree killing’ inspired by the ‘involuntary celibate’ movement

The jury previously heard Friel appeared to ‘almost idolise’ Rodger. 

During his trial, items recovered by police were presented to the court.

They were shown during evidence from Khaldoun Kabbani, a forensic scientist from the Scottish Police Authority who focuses on ballistics and weapons, including the science of bullets and projectiles.

Was on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh and accused of 'expressing a desire to carry out a spree killing mass murder'. Pictured: Edinburgh High Court

Was on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh and accused of 'expressing a desire to carry out a spree killing mass murder'. Pictured: Edinburgh High Court

Was on trial at the High Court in Edinburgh and accused of ‘expressing a desire to carry out a spree killing mass murder’. Pictured: Edinburgh High Court 

A report suggested the crossbow was in ‘good external condition’ and ‘in working order’, with the specifications stating it could fire arrows at 340ft per second and had a draw weight of 175lb.

When advocate depute Richard Goddard asked if that was a considerable weight, Mr Kabbani replied ‘yes’.

Mr Goddard also asked about the registration of crossbows, to which Mr Kabbani read out a document stating they ‘cannot be considered firearms’ but there is legislation on the sale of those with a draw weight over 1.4kg (3lb).

The court heard Friel had 'expressed affinity with and sympathy for one incel-motivated mass murderer' and the jury previously heard he appeared to 'almost idolise' US killer Elliot Rodger (pictured)

The court heard Friel had 'expressed affinity with and sympathy for one incel-motivated mass murderer' and the jury previously heard he appeared to 'almost idolise' US killer Elliot Rodger (pictured)

The court heard Friel had ‘expressed affinity with and sympathy for one incel-motivated mass murderer’ and the jury previously heard he appeared to ‘almost idolise’ US killer Elliot Rodger (pictured)

What is the ‘incel’ movement? 

The incel subculture of self-professed involuntary celibates is a ‘deeply sexist and misogynistic’ development of age-old sexism that has been given a boost with the rise of internet communities, according to a University of St Andrews expert.

Tim Wilson, director of the Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St Andrews, said the movement would not exist without social media and the internet. 

‘The basic idea, I’m afraid, is the idea that sexual fulfilment is a human right and that as a man not getting it, you’re somehow being actively deprived and repressed by women.’

He added: ‘It’s deeply sexist and misogynistic, powered by an attraction to deeply self-pitying people.’

How did the subculture begin?

The incel movement gained momentum in 2014 after the Isla Vista killings by Elliot Rodger in California.

He murdered six people before turning his weapon on himself in an act of violence he described as his ‘war on women’ who were not attracted to him.

The killer posted videos of himself online setting out his ‘manifesto’, as well as declaring he would get revenge on women and sexually active men.

Mr Wilson believes Rodger was a turning point for the subculture as it made him into a ‘hero’ – with some calling him Saint Elliot.

He said: ‘We have these very dark corners of the internet where lonely, frustrated people can be attracted and reinforce each others’ prejudices and world views.

‘Out of that comes a grey borderland of socially disturbed killings.’

How widespread is the incel movement?

There have been 44 deaths related to incels since 2014, according to Mr Wilson, including 10 in a Toronto van attack by Alek Minassia in 2018.

Mr Wilson draws a distinction with episodes like these and the 1989 Montreal Massacre – when Marc Lepine entered a class at the Ecole Polytechnique and killed 14 women – as it took place when online platforms were not widespread.

Lepine said he was ‘fighting feminism’ before opening fire.

Mr Wilson believes the reason this attack did not have a similar impact as Rodger’s is that people with violently sexist views were not able to share and encourage each others’ ideas online.

The internet now has multiple forums that attract incels to discuss their own frustrations about not being sexually active, often blaming women.

How can it be tackled?

Mr Wilson said incels should be treated as a ‘quasi-political’ movement for it to be tackled by authorities.

He highlighted its sporadic nature ‘within self-pitying people with social problems’, which has created a tendency for it be dismissed.

But the professor said the community appears to be more organised – despite attacks being carried out by lone actors – and makes references to the manifesto of Rodger in the way a political uprising could be described.

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