Plymouth Shooting: The Worst Mass Shooting in Britain since 2010

Mass shootings are something we in the UK and Ireland often associate most with our neighbours across the Atlantic. However, after Jake Davison’s shooting spree on Thursday, the burden of grief now rests heavy on the shoulders of Plymouth’s community. This attack symbolises the tragedy of our legalities: where there remains an ability to possess firearms, there remains the possibility to commit acts of great violence against our common citizens.

Editor – Aidan Lomas

Who was involved?

The murderer has been identified as Jake Davison, a 22-year-old, who later turned the gun on himself after being cornered by Police. It has been confirmed that he used a pump-action shotgun to commit the atrocities. When the police arrived at the scene at 18:00, Davison had already gunned down his 51-year-old mother, Maxine Davison. Immediately after the murder of his mother, Jake Davison exited the Biddick Drive property and proceeded to murder three-year-old Sophie Martyn, and her father Lee Martyn, aged 43. 

Sophie Martyn (left), aged 3, and her father Lee Martyn, aged 43. BBC

Once Jake Davison had committed his first three murders, he went on to shoot two neighbours. Fortunately, these individuals are currently being treated in hospital for non-life threatening wounds. Witnesses have described how, following his initial shooting spree, Davison began to shoot at people at a nearby parkland area. Here, Davison murdered Stephen Washington, aged 59. The final victim, Kate Shepherd, aged 66, was killed in Henderson Place. Following this, Davison turned the gun on himself. 

Why did Davison commit the murders?

At present, there is no confirmed motive for Jake Davison’s murders on Thursday. However, whilst we can never truly understand what thoughts exactly drive a person to commit such tragic inhumanity, it is being reported that Davison was an active participant of “incel culture”; someone who defines themselves as being unable to attain sexual relations despite aspiring to achieve a romantic relationship. The broader “Incel Culture” has been linked heavily to serious crimes around the world, however, is not being treated as a terrorist community.  It is common for members of the incel culture to partake in extreme misogyny, even going as far as to directly advocate for and participate in the committing of violence against women. The ideology is often compared to other far-right terrorist ideologies; similarities for “incels” and far-right ideologies is to exchange in conspiracy theories, fact denial, and rampant islamophobia and anti-semitism. 

Jake Davison, 22, murdered five on Thursday. BBC

In the case of murderer Jake Davison, he define incel culture as a “race of outcasts, abused and forgotten by humanity” who “deserved a better place in society”. Many online forums for incel culture are filled with self-pity and self-righteous victimisation of members; they perceive their lack of sexual encounters as being a form of oppression. Some forums feature as many as 13,000 members, who engage with up to 200,000 threads. This perceived discrimination is mobilised and marshalled, leading to numerous armed assaults around the world; in 2014, Elliot Rodger, a student at the University of California, shot dead six of his academic peers before also turning the gun on himself. 

National and local responses

Sir Keir Starmer has questioned why Davison was licensed to use a firearm despite having lost his license in September 2020 after accusations of assault. The Labour leader has questioned why Davison was permitted to own a firearm, whilst also calling for a review of gun-license laws and background checks. Meanwhile, Home Secretary Priti Patel has offered her full support for Devon and Cornwall Police. She has labelled the atrocity as “tragic beyond words, really, really tragic, for a range of reasons, and obviously for those involved”. 

Hundreds attended a candlelit vigil in memory of the victims of the shooting. The common response amongst local is that it could have been any of them. Local MP, Luke Pollard, has described Plymouth as being “devastated”. Speaking to the Home Secretary, one resident described the mass shooting as Plymouth’s own 9/11.

Messages of support, and tributes to those lost have be laid in Plymouth after Thursday’s attack. BBC

Editor’s Thoughts

As with many stories, it’s far too soon to know for sure whether or not “Incel culture” was the primary motivation for Jake Davison’s inhumanity on Thursday. However, the culture itself is definitely something with which we need to expand our understanding. Incel culture is, quite simply, a terror community. There’s simply nothing more to it. For too long, with some placing the origins of incel culture as being some thirty years ago, this community of social rejects has gone overly unobserved. Ironically, Jake Davison was right when he said that incels were left behind by society; after all, they are very rarely viewed as a threat until a tragedy occurs and the evidence presents itself. Perhaps if Jake Davison’s online presence, which is still viewable at time of publishing, had been more cautiously monitored, his renewed gun-license may never have been issued. Perhaps then, the five lives lost would still be alive today. 

Since I was young, the topic of ideological fanaticism was heavily focused on islamic extremism, racism, and xenophobia. However, this “involuntary celibate” ideology is aimed solely at women. As we continue to find ourselves in a world where social media and the unregulated internet allows misinterpretations to rise, for gender politics to become more and more divisive, and for right-wing ideological fanaticism to become almost normalised, it is pivotal that both civilians and law enforcement recognise that incel culture is indeed an ideology. Not only, meanwhile, is it an ideology, but it is one focused purely on violence. How can it be that islamic extremism, or far-right fanaticism, which are both varied in their ideological policies, is viewed as a terrorist ideology, but incel culture, which is purely and solely violent, is viewed as merely a community of outcasts and recluses? It baffles me that incel culture is not recognised as a terrorist organisation; at the end of the day, these men are motivated enough by their warped mentalities to commit heinous and violent crimes. The Plymouth shooting is the worst since 2010. Whilst it’s not a definitive motive just yet, maybe now is the time that incel culture is finally added to the list of ideological communities recognised as a threat to law, order, and society. 

The thoughts and prayers of the Gown’s team and our Trustees go out to the families and friends of those murdered on Thursday. We also hope that those injured make a safe and speedy recovery. 


For anyone who has been affected by the content of this article, or is surviving domestic abuse, please contact the Women’s Aid 24 hour helpline:

Or call 028 9066 6049 for free.

More support lines can be found at: 

Published by The Gown Queen's University Belfast

The Gown has provided respected, quality and independent student journalism from Queen's University, Belfast since its 1955 foundation, by Dr. Richard Herman. Having had an illustrious line of journalists and writers for almost 70 years, that proud history is extremely important to us. The Gown is consistent in its quest to seek and develop the talents of aspiring student writers.

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