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Four British Nazis Plead Guilty to Setting Synagogues Afire; Are Freed

April 8, 1966
See Original Daily Bulletin From This Date

Four former members of the tiny Nationalist Socialist Party, who pleaded guilty to setting fires at London synagogues, were ordered released yesterday by Judge A. Aarvold in Old Bailey court. Judge Aarvold ordered their release on grounds that they had indicated they were penitent and had promised to stop their anti-Semitic activities.

The four were John Evans, 24, David Thorne, 20, Michael Trowbridge, 23, and Raymond Hemsworth, 18. Evans, Thorne and Trowbridge pleaded guilty to charges of maliciously setting fire to the Brondesbury Synagogue causing estimated damages of 120,000 pounds ($336,000). Evans and Hemsworth pleaded guilty to setting fire to the Bayswater synagogue. Thorne’s plea of innocent in the Bayswater synagogue arson was accepted by the prosecution. A fifth suspect, Gordon Parker, was found innocent of both charges and released.

Prosecutor Edward Cussen said that the Brondesbury synagogue was gutted on March 13 last year after a fire started by Thorne, Evans and Trowbridge. He said a similar attempt was made against the Bayswater synagogue last June 30 but only the doors were damaged.

Evans told the court that he had joined the National Socialist group in October 1964 but that he now realized that its doctrines were “horribly wrong” and completely against everything which was “respectable and decent.” He said if it was not for the propaganda of Colin Jordan, leader of the British Nazis, and his wife, he would never have committed the offenses.

Detective Inspector Albert Wickstead told the court that Thorne, Evans and Hemsworth were of previous “good character” but that Trowbridge had two previous convictions, one for using insulting language at an election in 1965 as a National Socialist representative.

The judge told the defendants “you are young men whose minds seem to have been snared by a philosophy which permits and even encourages the burning down of holy and venerated places. Having been so snared, you were used by unscrupulous people to further their own evil design.”

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