The gunman who killed five people in a mass shooting in Plymouth ranted at a 16-year-old girl that “women are arrogant and entitled beyond belief” in some of his final online exchanges just a few days before he embarked on Britain’s worst mass shooting in more than a decade.
Jake Davison, 22, told a US teenager on a subreddit forum that he was “bitter and jealous” and that women “treat men with zero respect or even view them as human beings”.
In the online messages posted days before he killed five people, including his mother and a three-year-old girl, Davison’s adherence to “incel” culture is starkly evident.
Incels – involuntary celibate men – are members of misogynistic online groups who blame women for their sexual failings.
The shootings have already prompted calls for extra resources to tackle the the woman-hating ideology which is thought to have inspired the Plymouth gunman.
In the messages, obtained by the Observer, sent five days before the killings, Davison told the random teenager he was “entitled” to a “16 17 year old GF [girlfriend]”.
In another entry that underscores his misogynistic worldview when the teenager questions why Davison would pursue young girls, he replies: “If I were to walk into my room and find a 16-year-old spread wide on my bed yeah I would have sex with her.”
But the messages also reveal that Davison may have wanted to leave the incel community because he says it was too damaging to his mental state.
On 4 August he posted to the “IncelExit” subreddit – designed for men looking for a “way out” from the community – suggesting that its toxic views had permanently corrupted him.
“I personally don’t think once you live this life you can really ever change the damage done … I personally believe my scars and damage will follow me forever,” he states.
He also appears to blame the incel movement’s “blackpill” philosophy for his state of increasing hopelessness in the period before he embarked on his killing spree in the Keyham area of Plymouth on Thursday evening.
Blackpill is a fatalist outlook centred on the belief that success with the opposite sex is determined by genetics at birth.
“I wish I never came across all this BS [it’s] just toxic negative bullshit … it also makes you feel like any self improvement you do is never going to be enough does anyone else feel this way,” he wrote in May.
In his last ever known post, sent on Tuesday 10 August, he laments his loneliness when he does not receive any likes on his Facebook profile.
Written two days before the shootings, Davison writes: “[It] reminds you of how forgotten you are how little you mean.”
His comments and membership of the incel community again raise questions over the police’s decision not to treat the worst mass shooting in Britain since 2010 as terror-related.
There also also questions over why Davison’s firearms licence was returned to him last month following an allegation of assault against him in September 2020.
The incel movement is known to promote violent misogyny and has inspired a number of high-profile murders in the US.
These include the case of US student Elliot Rodger who in 2014 shot dead six of his contemporaries before killing himself after leaving a message saying that he was angry because he had failed to form a relationship with a woman.
The Observer has learned that the Home Office’s office for security and counter-terrorism was already investigating the incel movement in the context of an emerging threat.
The home secretary Priti Patel has said the government would ensure it addressed any issues about online activity from “incels” following the Plymouth shooting.
The extent of the issue is evident with Davison immediately hailed as a hero by incels who flocked to his YouTube account, prompting calls for the platform to immediately remove hateful misogynist content.
Imran Ahmed, chief executive of the Centre for Countering Digital Hate, said: “Incels are terrorists. They seek to teach women a lesson, to remould society, to change through violence that which they could never possibly achieve through the ballot box or persuasion.”
Ahmed said that ungoverned online spaces were allowing hateful views to propagate and radicalise new followers.
“Male supremacist incel communities form specifically to share and deepen one another’s hatred of women. There, they undergo a process of radicalisation unchecked by broader social norms because of these digital spaces’ isolation from the rest of society’s tempering institutions and forces,” he added.
Experts also point out that followers of the extreme end of incel culture share conspiracy theory-like views with the far right.
Leading incel experts and government adviser on the issue, Lewys Brace of Exeter University, said there was a strong “overlap” between the movement and extreme rightwing ideology.
“We realised just how potentially violent this could be and how easily it could be exported from the US,” said Brace.
One concern for police and the security services according to Brace is that the pandemic, lockdown and the impact on social isolation – which Davison himself mentions – will undoubtedly have led to more men joining the online incel community.
Ahmed added: “That so many malignant ideologies – from anti-vaxxers to antisemites to incels – are accelerating their radicalisation and developing violent mobilising elements is a function of both the ease with which they can build their communities online and the inherently radicalising nature of those spaces.”
He said the UK government and police needed to view such ideological communities as a “serious terrorist threat” that would inevitably lead to more attacks.
Ahmed added: “It is up to government to protect society from the threat posed by twisted, violent male supremacists who even today are whispering words of encouragement to groom the next terrorist attacker on platforms we all use.”