A homeless white nationalist in Devon has admitted setting fire to an historic Exeter synagogue in an arson attack in July last year.
At a hearing at the Old Bailey on Friday, Judge Anthony Leonard QC was told that prosecutors have accepted 52-year old Tristan Morgan’s guilty pleas to a series of charges, as he lifted reporting restrictions.
Morgan, of no fixed abode, admitted arson, encouraging terrorism by publishing a song called ‘White Man’ to a live-streaming website, and collecting information for terrorist purposes in relation to a book called ‘White Resistance Manual.’ He will be sentenced on 1 July.
He was arrested after breaking a window at the rear of the 18th century building – Britain’s third oldest synagogue – before pouring fuel inside and using a match to ignite it. He admitted to recklessly endangering life.
The Community Security Trust (CST) said it had worked closely with Exeter Synagogue and with Devon & Cornwall Police since it happened.
In a statement, the CST said it had been “an appalling attack by somebody who had engaged with far right extremism” which made it “a very disturbing incident”.
It added: “The damage to the synagogue would have been much worse had it not been for the quick thinking and actions of local residents, and we are grateful to the wider community for the support they offered to Exeter Synagogue in the days following this attack.”
Speaking to Jewish News, Brian Nathan, the security officer at the shul, said: “We had a phenomenal and heart-warming response from the Exeter authorities – civil, police, fire. From what could have been a disaster, a lot of good came out.”
The building was saved because two passing bingo workers noticed the flames and put the fire out using nearby fire extinguishers before alerting authorities. They both received awards for their heroism and quick thinking, and were invited to the synagogue’s reopening.
Speaking last year, Superintendent Matthew Lawler said there had been a “really good, positive response from both the public and faith groups in Exeter in support of the Jewish community”.