LONDON — A British court on Tuesday sentenced a fanatical neo-Nazi couple who named their baby son after Adolf Hitler to prison for belonging to a group banned under anti-terror laws.
Adam Thomas was sentenced to six and a half years in prison and his Portuguese partner Claudia Patatas to five years in prison by judge Melbourne Inman at Birmingham Crown Court.
Thomas, 22, and Patatas, 38, were among six people sentenced for membership in National Action, which in 2016 became the first right-wing group to be banned under anti-terror laws.
In his sentencing, Inman said the group had “horrific” goals.
National Action wanted “the overthrow of democracy in this country by serious violence and murder, and the imposition of a Nazi-style state which would eradicate whole sections of society by such violence and mass-murder,” Inman said.
The judge said the couple, who gave their child the middle name “Adolf,” had “a long history of violent racist beliefs.”
“You acted together in all you thought, said and did, in the naming of your son and the disturbing photographs of your child by symbols of Nazism and the Ku Klux Klan.”
Photographs recovered from their house showed Thomas cradling his newborn son while wearing the Ku Klux Klan white robe.
The couple’s close friend, Darren Fletcher, who admitted National Action membership before trial, was also jailed on Tuesday for five years for the same crime.
Fletcher, 28, had taught his daughter to give a Nazi salute.
Daniel Bogunovic, 27, a leading member of National Action’s Midlands chapter, was sentenced to six years and four months.
Two other men, cybersecurity worker Joel Wilmore, 24, and van driver Nathan Pryke, 26, were also sent to prison.
'Neo-Nazi' dad pictured 'dressed in KKK robes while holding baby son he called Adolf after Hitler'
— marmite (@marmite_) October 15, 2018
The 22-year-old Thomas had told the court that he spent nearly two years in Israel when he was 18, planned to convert to Judaism, and wished to serve in the country’s armed forces.
A student who studied at a Jerusalem yeshiva with Thomas told The Times of Israel that at the time, Thomas went by the Hebrew name Avi.
“Avi told us that he had an absolutely horrendous childhood,” N., who asked to remain anonymous, said of the Thomas family’s strong connections to UK far-right groups. “He came to Israel to try to escape that life, and convert to Judaism. He was in the conversion program at the yeshiva.”
The young man, his friend believes, “feared for his life from his family and old associates” if he returned to the UK.
“I don’t know what to think, but part of me thinks he was maintaining this persona out of fear of being considered a ‘race traitor,'” said N.
“My impression of Avi was that he was a lost boy, with a good heart and sincere in his adoption of the Jewish faith,” he said.
“We could’ve saved him, but his mental scars and lack of maturity closed many doors,” said N. “The pain of that rejection unfortunately drove him back to the anti-Semitism he was brainwashed with in childhood.”
All the same, the return of “Avi” to his former lifestyle surprised N.
“I’m shocked that in such a short time he could go from what he was here to what he became. I hope it’s not too late for him to reform. He is still young,” said N.
David Simpkins, who was Thomas’s roommate at Machon Meir, said the young Briton was at the yeshiva for “just a few weeks,” on what he characterized as “a trial period.”
“His behaviors were very extreme in general,” Simpkins told The Times of Israel. “He was not interested in becoming a Jew of the mainstream kind, he was trying to join a smaller sect of mostly Yemenite Jews.” Thomas indeed “regarded most Jews today as heretics,” he said.
A couple from Banbury were jailed for a total of 11 and a half years for being members of a banned far-right group today. Adam Thomas, 22, and Claudia Patatas, 38, both of Waltham Gardens, were found guilty of being part of National Action… https://t.co/K9B5tGV43F
— antifascist45 ????☭ (@antifascist45) December 18, 2018
Simpkins eventually persuaded Thomas to speak with a rabbi at Machon Meir who specialized in helping people deal with their past.
The rabbi told Simpkins he believed that it was admirable that Thomas was trying to escape the white supremacism of his childhood, but felt that he could be “replacing one extreme with another.”
Machon Meir felt Thomas needed to get help and then come back with “a clear head” if he wanted to convert, Simpkins said. “They gave him the best possible advice and he didn’t take it, as we see now.”
Instead, Thomas – who was sometimes homeless – went to a number of other yeshivas in Jerusalem trying to see if he could get in any door and find a rabbi who would sponsor him for his conversion. He continued to get the same advice he had received from Machon Meir.
“He ended up at the conversion ulpan in Tel Aviv,” said N. “It’s Modern Orthodox, and a bit more accepting of less conventional approaches to Orthodox Judaism. That’s where he met Patatas. I met up with them a few times in Tel Aviv; they were dating.”
The couple’s relationship — Patatas became pregnant — led to them being “bounced” out of the program, N. believes.
During the trial, jurors were told that Nazi and far-right memorabilia, and National Action flags, badges and banners, were found at the home of Thomas and Patatas. Police also allegedly found an “extensive” collection of weapons, including an axe under their bed and two machetes, one with a serrated 18-inch (46-cm) blade, during searches after the couple were arrested on terrorism charges in January.
A digital copy of “The Anarchist Cookbook” was found, containing chapters headed “Making plastic explosive,” “Letter bombs,” and “Molotov cocktails,” the court has been told. Thomas denies a separate charge of having “The Anarchist Cookbook”
Police also discovered one of two crossbows just a few feet from the baby’s crib, prosecutors say.
Robert Philpot contributed to this report.