A council worker has been suspended following a Sunday Times investigation into a network of far-right groups.
Chris Knowles, who is employed by the children’s services department at Leeds city council, has been questioned over his links to the English Defence League (EDL) and a website featuring anti-Muslim content.
Knowles has been accused by Paul Ray, a former senior EDL figure, of operating under an alias to disguise his controversial views. He has been using the name “Aeneas Lavinium” on Facebook and other websites linked to Anders Breivik, the Norwegian gunman who massacred 69 people in summer.
Last week Oslo police confirmed for the first time that Breivik travelled to Britain at least twice — in May 2002 and December 2003.
The gunman has claimed in his 1,600-page “manifesto” that during a trip to London in 2002 he met an English “mentor” who inducted him into a modern-day version of the Knights Templar Order. Police, however, have no evidence to verify this claim.
Ray says that Knowles attended a meeting in July 2009 at which members of the EDL were introduced to key ideological figures in the so-called “counter-jihad” community. He was involved at the time with a right-wing organisation called the Centre for Vigilant Freedom (CVF), which used an address in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, for correspondence. Another member of the organisation was Ann Marchini, a buy-to-let property tycoon who was revealed last weekend as an EDL backer.
The CVF is now part of the International Civil Liberties Alliance (ICLA) whose website includes many contributions from a writer called “Aeneas”. One article is about Fjordman, an anti-Islam blogger named 111 times by Breivik in his manifesto.
The site also features favourable items on the EDL and a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammed with an exploding bomb on his head.
When Knowles was asked if he was Aeneas, he said: “I’m not willing to confirm anything.”
Leeds council launched its probe after being shown the ICLA website. A spokeswoman said: “We take the allegations made by The Sunday Times very seriously and a member of staff has been suspended while we undertake a thorough investigation. If there has been any breach of the council’s policies or code of conduct we will take appropriate action.”
Additional reporting: Mark Lewis in Oslo