A student led ‘down a rabbit hole of the internet’ to satanism and child pornography

Harry Vaughan, 18, of London, England. [Image credit: Metropolitan Police]

Scotland Yard's counter terrorism chief, Commander Richard Smith said "What this case tells us is that anybody can be affected, anybody can be radicalized."  He cautioned that parents should "Be as vigilant as possible for signs that a young loved one may be in trouble.  If you have any concerns at all, act decisively- talk to the police before it's too late."


The strong warning came during the sentencing hearing for 18-year-old Harry Vaughn who was described as an A* student at Tiffin school in Kingston, southwest London, one of the country's top ten state schools that "had every advantage that could've been afforded to him."


The son of a clerk in the House of Lords and a teacher, Vaughn pleaded guilty on September 2 to one count of encouragement of terrorism, one count of disseminating a terrorist publication, 12 counts of possessing a document useful for terrorism and two counts of making an indecent photograph of a child.


Taking into consideration his age, Justice Sweeney called Vaughan "a dangerous offender" before sentencing him to two years in a young offenders' institution, suspended for two years, and ordered that he participate in a rehabilitation program.


Vaughan's attorney, Naeem Mian QC told the court that his client had, beginning at age 14, found a "toxic cocktail of factors" that caused his client to "disappear down a rabbit hole of the internet" into a "very, very dark place."


As a result of this, Smith described him as "an intelligent young man ... yet, online, he was an enthusiastic participant of rightwing terrorist forums."  That enthusiasm was said in a specialist report, to be the result of an ideology that was a "hybrid" of occult "left-hand path" Satanism and neo-Nazi accelerationism, which advocates terror attacks to spark a race war.


Vaughan was arrested in June 2019 after an investigation into Fascist Forge, an online community, led investigators to him.  As a result, a forensic evaluation of the laptop he used, said to be issued by his school, was found to hold 4,200 images and 302 files which included extreme rightwing terrorist manuals and documents related to Satanism, antisemitism, and the neo-Nazi movement.


According to the Independent, all but two of more than 30 videos of children which depicted the most serious category of child sex abuse images had been deleted.  The prosecutor, Dan Pawson-Pounds said the images were among a larger amount of material related to the occult and Satanism.


The Old Bailey was told that Vaughan used "sophisticated" techniques to conceal his online activity including the use of aliases, and even concealed many of the documents that he had saved through deletion, encryption, and even the use of the dark web.