'A boy that's really bad to the core of his being doesn't say "I love you mum" every time he speaks to you from jail.'
The mother of a teenager responsible for race hate attacks on Auckland mosques says her loner son was brainwashed by the National Front in online chatrooms.
North Shore mum Bonnie Baumgarten says she is still coming to terms with the fact her son Ross - whom she describes as a sensitive engineering whiz who loves science fiction - carried out the attacks. The former National Front youth leader is on remand in Mt Eden prison and his mother fears reprisals for her son's actions.
His partner in crime, former National Front webmaster Jason Molloy, is on bail in Gore, where he continues to post racist messages on the internet and uses photographs of the graffiti-daubed mosque as his "online signature" in internet discussions. He and his family declined to speak to the Sunday Star-Times.
Baumgarten, 18, and Molloy, 19, will be sentenced on Tuesday for their attacks on seven mosques in the wake of July's London terror attacks, and for shooting an air rifle at strangers days later. The pair drove around Auckland's North Shore shooting at pedestrians, before Molloy - dressed in black and wearing a full balaclava - hid in bushes and shot at a woman's car.
Bonnie Baumgarten is at a loss to describe where her electronics salesman son's political views originated, describing her middle-class family as a liberal household where the exchange of ideas was encouraged.
Ross was very much a loner who was at home at weekends, we would spend the weekends together, I would read, he would be online," she said, adding that he was not a "Columbine-type" person.
He was drawn to racist discussion boards on the internet, where he found acceptance and was influenced by their ideas.
"These are impressionable young minds they're moulding into their way of thinking, their little foot-soldiers," she said of the Front.
"These are old men running this, and these young ones are like sponges, soaking it all up."
Her son's involvement in the National Front escalated after the death of his father of cancer in February last year, while Baumgarten was a seventh-former at Rangitoto College. He would have heated arguments with his mother about his political beliefs.
"Don't think we didn't try to talk him out of it - we worked so hard to do that," she said.
She knew he had a National Front T-shirt but did not realise the extent of his involvement. When he travelled to Wellington for a violent National Front rally last year, she thought he was attending a rock concert. She later saw him in television coverage at a Destiny Church rally in Auckland. "That sort of blew me away... the conflicting trains of thought," she said.
Baumgarten and Molloy were heavy internet users, frequenting white nationalist forums and anti-racist websites like the Australasian website Fight Dem Back, where they would debate and trade insults with anti-racist activists.
The activists would bait them and engage them in conversations, in the hope of converting the younger ones.
Molloy in particular was well-known as a fantasist, a "loose unit" known for his wild boasts of physical, intellectual and martial prowess. When news broke that the mosques had been attacked, activists believed Molloy and Baumgarten were responsible.
One of those activists was 19-year-old Tove Partington, who had almost daily online chats with Baumgarten posing as a London-based female neo-Nazi, and has continued internet contact with Molloy.
She said Baumgarten had opened up to her in their online chats and tried to impress her by telling her he and Molloy had attacked the mosques. This information was passed on to police.
On the day of the London attacks, he emailed her the following: "I am just watching whats happening in London! I hope you are not near... F–-ING ARABS!! If it is them (I'm) soo f–-ing over mosques here!!"
Said Partington: "They were very angry - they were nerds basically and they wanted to feel big and feel they were doing something for `the cause'."
Baumgarten told her how blacks in South Africa were destroying the country, how he wanted to gas Otara and "poison the coconut supply", and how the National Front were starting a militia.
Just days ago, Molloy posted on a white nationalist website: "We of the pure Aryan breed are not designed to indulge in such vulgar activity's as `sports', we are more fitted to intellectual pastimes, such as an involved game of chess or a heated debate. Let the blacks and Jews struggle in their mindless barbaric `sports', imagine 10 or so sport loving niggers playing soccer with my . 45...now that's a white man's sport, but hey I'm not racist MY BEST SLAVE IS BLACK."
Baumgarten said her son was repentant and the shock of incarceration would do him good.
"A boy that's really bad to the core of his being doesn't say `I love you mum' every time he speaks to you from jail," she said. "He's a misguided boy, a brainwashed boy, but not a bad one."