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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Steven Morris

Somerset man jailed for life for ‘revenge attack’ plot on old school and colleagues

Reed Wischhusen
Two armed officers went to Wischhusen’s house after a tip-off. He came downstairs pointing a handgun and was shot Photograph: -

A warehouse worker obsessed with mass killings has been jailed for life after being found guilty of plotting to carry out “revenge” attacks at his old school, a police headquarters and his workplace.

Reed Wischhusen’s targets included former classmates whom he believed had bullied him, colleagues who mocked him, and Avon and Somerset police officers after the force refused him a firearms licence.

Passing sentence, Judge Picton said Wischhusen was clearly a danger to the public and would have to serve at least 12 years before being eligible to be considered for parole.

Wischhusen, 32, amassed an extraordinary armoury at his home, a modest semi-detached house he shared with his father in the village of Wick St Lawrence, near Weston-super-Mare.

He had converted a blank pistol into one capable of firing live rounds, had a viable 19th-century rifle, and was making a submachine gun. He also had material to make improvised explosive devices, silencers for guns, a full police uniform, bulletproof vests and handcuffs.

Four officers, two armed, went to his house after a tip-off. Wischhusen came downstairs pointing a handgun at police and was shot.

The judge said: “I have watched and rewatched the day police officers attended your house. There was a stage when the officers were dealing with you when you can be seen trying to get your hand on the loaded firearm in the pocket of your work coat.

“You had been wearing the same coat in public, knowing you were carrying a loaded firearm in the pocket and the danger that you posed to society.”

Reed Wischhusen in police uniform holding a gun
Reed Wischhusen in police uniform holding a gun. Photograph: Avon and Somerset Police/PA

The prosecution at Bristol crown court claimed Wischhusen had a “macabre interest” in the Dunblane gunman, Thomas Hamilton, and US mass killers.

He insisted his “revenge” plan, which he had written down in great detail, was mere fantasy and he was curious about firearms and explosives. He claimed his coming downstairs with a gun was a suicide attempt as he hoped the officers would shoot him dead.

The jury found him guilty of having an explosive substance with intent to endanger life, possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, possessing ammunition with intent to endanger life and possessing a prohibited firearm without a certificate.

In victim impact statements read to the court, the four officers who were confronted by Wischhusen spoke of how traumatic the incident had been.

One said: “The worry of having [to] potentially kill someone weighed heavy on my mind. It was an extremely emotional time for me, I could not sleep properly.”

The officer recounted the nightmares and flashbacks he endured after the incident, which made him feel “detached from normal life”.

Another said: “I felt like I was in a bubble, like a snow globe, where the world was carrying on around me. Like a goldfish in a bowl, you are being fed but it is such a tiny world and totally out of your control.”

A third said it was strange to think they had shot Wischhusen, then saved his life by giving him emergency first aid. “It was an odd, unusual set of circumstances. The overriding experience from this is how vulnerable your life is and how quickly it can be all over. It’s only because of the quick decisions we made that I wasn’t in the direct line of fire. A second of hesitation and things may have been different.”

In mitigation Adam Vaitilingam KC, defending, told the court Wischhusen was of previously good character and “some ability”. He said: “It is shame he was not able to put it into a more creative field having had rejections from jobs he applied for, including the army.”

DCI Simon Dewfall, of the major crime investigation team, said: “Reed Wischhusen is an extremely dangerous man. He claimed his plans were fantasy but our investigation proved he was working towards acting on them. He had explosive substances and firearms capable of causing lethal harm while, chillingly, he also had a Avon and Somerset police uniform.”

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