A conspiracy theorist in the north east is awaiting sentencing, after he set fire to a 5G mast last year, destroying it and damaging the building it was housed on.

According to the Shields Gazette, 41 year old David Patterson on 21 June 2020 climbed over a fence into a locked compound at Wardley Garage in Gateshead, near the South Tyneside border, and set fire to a BT phone mast on the roof.

He caused between £100,000 and £150,000 damage to the mast, which was destroyed, as well as causing around £15,000 damage to the garage itself.

5G mast

“Police attended and they arrested him,” Prosecutor Alec Burns was quoted by the Shields Gazette as telling Newcastle Crown Court. “He admitted he had set fire to the mast, saying because it was 5G he believed it was dangerous.”

The court was told that Patterson had apparently made himself a “bunker” in his kitchen using tins and had covered himself in tinfoil, in an effort to protect himself and his family.

Another local media outlet, the Chronicle Live, meanwhile showed a video of the 5G mast actually on fire.

At the time of the attack, Patterson was reportedly suffering a mental disorder and had been adversely influenced by material he had read online.

“He believed he was protecting his family and others, in reality, from the harm he thinks, in his delusional beliefs, was coming from the aerial,” Judge Sarah Mallett was quoted by the Chronicle Live as saying.

“He believed tins and tin foil act as a barrier from the waves he believed he was experiencing from the 5G masts, furthered as it was, that belief, by material that is accessible on the internet that, frankly, feeds beliefs that are widely considered and accepted to be completely delusional,” said the judge.

Conspiracy theories

The court heard Patterson was admitted to a psychiatric hospital the day after the offence, and has started taking his medication again and is making good progress.

“I know what I did was totally wrong,” he reportedly said. “Conspiracy theories don’t apply to me no more.”

According to the local media outlets, Judge Mallett adjourned sentence until October as she wanted to more information about the mental health interventions available to the court, because of her concerns about the future.

“I need to make sure the sentence I pass not only benefits you but, more importantly, benefits everyone by reducing the risks you have shown you are capable of causing,” the judge reportedly told him.

Patterson was given conditional bail until the October hearing.

Acts of violence

Cases like the above demonstrate the dangers posed by misleading content online, including conspiracy theories that 5G caused the Coronavirus pandemic.

During the height of the pandemic last year, 5G masts were repeatedly set on fire in parts of the country.

Attacks such as these cut off a vital communication channel to a Nightingale hospital in Birmingham, for patients dying from Covid.

Often these attacked masts were not even 5G equipped.

Last November chief executive of Openreach, Clive Selley, confirmed the appalling levels of violence its telecom engineers suffered during the pandemic.

During the earlier part of 2020, an Openreach engineer had been stabbed five times during an attack.

Selley added that engineers faced violence and intimidation as they went about doing their jobs, trying to keep the UK communication channels open and functioning during the first Covid-19 lockdown.

Members of the public would reportedly confront engineers installing cables or fibre, or doing repairs and demand to know if they were installing 5G, often invading their workspace or filming them.

In the month of June 2020 alone, Openreach said that it had suffered the same number of attacks and incidents of intimidation as it endured during the preceding 12 months.

Matters were not helped when ill-informed celebrities waded in on the subject of 5G supposedly causing Coronavirus.

BT’s chief executive, Philip Jansen has previously said that BT has seen telephone poles wrapped in barbed wire to stop its engineers doing their job, even though they are fixed-line (landline) cables and nothing to do with the mobile network.

He also revealed that 39 BT engineers had been verbally or physically assaulted – including threats to kill.

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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