Banbury couple found guilty of neo-Nazi group membership

Adam Thomas and Claudia Patatas pose with a Nazi flag. Photo: SWNS.com
Adam Thomas and Claudia Patatas pose with a Nazi flag. Photo: SWNS.com

A Banbury couple have been found guilty of being members of a banned far-right group.

Adam Thomas, 22, and Claudia Patatas, 38, both of Waltham Gardens, denied being part of National Action.

(L-R) Adam Thomas, Claudia Patatas, Daniel Bogunovic. Photo: West Midlands Police

(L-R) Adam Thomas, Claudia Patatas, Daniel Bogunovic. Photo: West Midlands Police

A third man – Daniel Bogunovic, 27, of Crown Hills Rise, Leicester – was also convicted at Birmingham Crown Court today (Monday, November 12).

Thomas was also found guilty of possessing terrorist material which included bomb-making instructions.

While Bogunovic was found guilty of inciting racial hatred after National Action branded stickers were found displayed in the grounds of the Aston University complex in July, 2016.

The trio will be sentenced on December 14.

West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit (WMCTU) head Detective Chief Superintendent Matt Ward said: “This result is a culmination of two years of painstaking work in the West Midlands and across the country to recognise and understand the threat of National Action.

“These individuals were not simply racist fantasists; we now know they were a dangerous, well-structured organisation.

“Their aim was to spread neo-Nazi ideology by provoking a race war in the UK and they had spent years acquiring the skills to carry this out.

“They had researched how to make explosives. They had gathered weapons. They had a clear structure to radicalise others.

“Unchecked they would have inspired violence and spread hatred and fear across the West Midlands.

“Today’s convictions have dealt a significant blow to National Action. We have dismantled their Midlands Chapter but that doesn’t mean the threat they pose will go away.

“Others on the periphery will take on leadership roles and so I ask for the public’s vigilance − if you see this group’s posters or stickers please report them to police − where there are new cells, we will intercept and prosecute them.”

National Action formed in 2013 but was banned following the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox in June 2016.

Despite being outlawed, the group carried out a ‘white holy war’ to uphold white supremacist values around the country, the trial heard.

The court heard how the group used several methods to disguise their contact with each other such as using pseudonyms through closed, encrypted messaging platforms as well as regularly meeting in person to spread their ideology.

Photos seen by the jury show a man alleged to be Thomas in Klu Klux Klan robes, while another shows the pair with a Swastika flag.

Thomas was also found to have a cache of weapons, including machetes, an axe and crossbows - and carried out target practice in his back garden.

Prosecutor Barnaby Jameson QC said: “This case is about a specific type of terror. It is a terror fuelled by hatred and division.”

The jury was also told of racist messages Patatas and Thomas sent on the chat group to people already convicted of being members of National Action.

Patatas, dressed in a black coat, wept in the dock as the jury delivered their verdict.

Thomas, wearing a dark blue suit and red tie, and Bogunovic, dressed in a blue suit and yellow tie, remained emotionless.

Three other men have also been convicted of being part of National Action having been arrested at the same time as the previous trio on January 3.

Joel Wilmore, 24, of Bramhall Moor Lane, Stockport; Darren Fletcher, 28, of Kitchen Lane, Wednesfield, Wolverhampton; and Nathan Pryke, 27, of Dartford Road, March, Cambridge; all previously admitted their membership.

Plus two men were convicted and sentenced earlier this year also for membership of National Action − Mikko Vehvilainen and Alex Deakin − however due to legal reasons, restrictions were placed on reporting.

Vehvilainen − a 34-year-old lance corporal in the army − was jailed for eight years in April .

Born in Finland, Vehvilainen was arrested by officers from WMCTU at his army base in Brecon, Powys in September 2017.

At an earlier hearing, Vehvilainen admitted a separate offence of being in possession of pepper spray.

Det Ch Supt Ward said: “Vehvilainen’s role typified the progress that National Action wanted; he was a non-commissioned officer in the British Army with access to young men who could be radicalised and recruited into the group.

“He was an incredibly dangerous individual and a key part of the National Action strategy.”

Deakin, 24, was also jailed for eight years for being a member of National Action, distributing extremist publications and two charges of possessing documents likely to be useful to a person preparing to commit an act of terrorism and distribution of a terrorist publication.

Det Ch Supt Ward continued: “Deakin had a long history with the far right movement, he held the mantle of regional coordinator to help facilitate online communications in the group.

“He turned it into a well organised cell in the midlands and as a result he’s serving a long sentence.

“Today’s guilty verdicts highlight the commitment by counter terrorism policing to tackle all forms of extremist ideology.

“We have seen many convictions over the past few years in connection with Syria-related terrorism and this work continues apace.

“But extreme groups such as National Action also have the potential to threaten public safety and security.

“We work tirelessly to counter terrorism. Our absolute priority is to ensure the safety and security of the people who live, work and visit the West Midlands area.

“If anyone has any suspicions over an individual’s behaviour and suspects them to be involved in this type of activity, I would urge you to report it to police as soon as possible.

“You can report suspicions online via ACT campaign’s website or call police confidentially on 0800 789 321. In an emergency dial 999.

“Suspicious activity is anything that seems out of place, unusual or just doesn’t seem to fit in with day-to-day life - Let us decide if it is important.”