A man the BBC calls a “far-right extremist … who set fire to a synagogue,” a year ago, first went down in flames and now the justice system.
Tristan Morgan — of Exeter, England — was caught on surveillance video using a small axe to break a window and pour gasoline into the 18th century building synagogue in that city on July 21, 2018.
It was a Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, but you could say nobody was in the building, simply named Exeter Synagogue, by the sheer grace of God. The next day was Tisha b’Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar when people mourn and fast.
The BBC reported Morgan, 52, laughed after he set the fire, but he didn’t laugh long.
That’s because — as the video shows — a fireball burst from the building, burning much of Morgan’s upper body. Unfortunately, it looked worse for Morgan than it actually was.
Police identified Morgan’s van from the video and arrested him at his home, suffering from burns to his hands, forehead and hair.
While being put in a police van, authorities say Morgan told them,
“Please tell me that synagogue is burning to the ground. If not, it’s poor preparation.”
At Friday’s hearing, the prosecutor described Morgan as having a
“deep-rooted anti-Semitic belief, embodied in a desire to do harm to the Jewish community and an obsession with abhorrent anti-Semitic material.”
Morgan pleaded guilty to arson and two terrorism-related charges.
He isn’t going out in any blaze of glory. Instead, the judge gave Morgan an indefinite hospital order, saying most people would feel “anger and revulsion” for what he did.
Devon & Cornwall Police say “only the courts can consider his potential release” and “Morgan was also given a ten year terrorist notification order which means that he will be subject of long-term monitoring by the police and partners.”
The Local Policing Commander summed it up:
“He will be subject of further assessments and close monitoring for many years to come.”
“The footage, which was played in open court, shows the level of planning, determination and intent by Morgan, whom the wider evidence clearly showed held abhorrent extreme right-wing, anti-Semitic, and white supremacist views. It is only by sheer chance that the synagogue was empty and indeed that Morgan himself sustained only minor burns.
“When this occurred last year, the public, civic leaders and faith groups all came together to send a positive message of tolerance and support which has been appreciated by the Jewish community not only in Exeter, but around the world. A similar statement has again been issued today.”
The president of the synagogue reacted by saying,
“We sincerely thank the local police for their brilliant response and for their thorough investigation and support since the traumatic events of last year.
“In particular we wish to highlight how the community of Exeter has come together to demonstrate the genuine positivity in our city. We live in a wonderful place that has demonstrated tolerance and support for each other at times of need, and the whole Jewish community sincerely appreciates the support we have had from all faiths here in Exeter.
“In October, we were thankfully able to return our services to the synagogue, and in April this year we celebrated a wonderful re-dedication service.
“We are now back in our home, and it is as special as it has always been.”
And I might add, Morgan can burn in hell.
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