The ‘Incel’ Connection: Behind the Attempted Stabbing by a Former GCHQ Employee

The ‘Incel’ Connection: Behind the Attempted Stabbing by a Former GCHQ Employee

Former GCHQ Worker Attempts Violent Attack Due to Rejection

A former GCHQ employee, Joshua Bowles, who attempted to fatally stab a female spy, did so because he had been rejected by her predecessor and self-identified as an ‘incel,’ signifying involuntary celibacy due to his inability to attract women.

Bowles, 29, was sentenced to life in prison for his attack on an operative of the National Security Agency (NSA), referred to as operative 99230, at a leisure center in Cheltenham on March 9, armed with knives.

While prosecutors initially cited terrorism as his motivation, Bowles’ lawyers portrayed him as an incel, part of a group of heterosexual men who harbor resentment toward women due to their inability to find sexual partners.

An Incel Turned Violent

Joshua Bowles joins a growing list of young men who resort to violence after experiencing difficulties forming relationships with women, a list that includes individuals like Plymouth’s shotgun killer, Jake Davison, and the US gunman, Elliot Rodger, both of whom expressed facing rejection.

Bowles, who had worked as a software developer at GCHQ, researched a previous female American NSA operative who had worked as the target’s predecessor, referred to as 13370.

Bowles had been romantically interested in 13370 but had faced rejection, or “ghosting,” from her.

He claimed to be a terrorist because he was embarrassed about his real motivation, which was romantic rejection and being overlooked for a permanent promotion at GCHQ. His resentment led him to obsess over 99230, the successor to 13370.

Elaborate Planning and Dark Obsessions

Bowles meticulously planned his March 9, 2023 attack on 99230 in the weeks leading up to the event.

His internet search history included looking up the writings of Ted Kaczynski, also known as the Unabomber, and searching for information about stalking after scrutinizing his victim’s social media and her netball group’s website.

Surveillance footage from the trial revealed that Bowles had been visiting GCHQ regularly and had taken an interest in the NSA employee he would eventually target.

His interest in the victim was clear, as he even visited the leisure center a month before the attack when her team was playing a netball match there.

A Violent Outburst

On the day of the attack, Bowles searched for information about murderers, serial killers, Russian massacres of German civilians, immigrant stabbings, and misogynistic attacks on women.

In the evening, he rushed at the woman, knocking her to the ground, but a bystander intervened, allowing her to escape momentarily.

Bowles then pursued her back into the leisure center, where he repeatedly stabbed her, causing cuts to her abdomen, chest, and thigh.

Another bystander ultimately intervened to stop the attack.

Mixed Motivations and Implications

The judge, Mrs. Justice Cheema-Grubb, acknowledged Bowles’ mixed motivations, noting that he was moderately or severely depressed at the start of the year and felt disempowered.

While terrorism was cited as a motivation, the judge did not discount the role of anger against women and GCHQ in his actions.

The Incels and Their Growing Influence

Bowles’ self-identification as an incel underscores his association with a growing community of men who believe societal factors prevent them from attracting sexual partners.

Incels, short for involuntary celibates, often express resentment and hostility toward women and sexually active men.

The movement’s extreme fringe exhibits misogynistic views and unrealistic expectations.

While the incel community is associated with toxic beliefs and, in some cases, violence, it also attracts individuals facing personal struggles and loneliness, who may find solace and misguided guidance in these online communities.

Preventative Measures and the Incels’ Influence in the UK

The UK’s terror prevention scheme, Prevent, has seen a significant rise in referrals related to incels, with 77 referrals in the year up to March 2022, compared to just three the previous year.

A report by the UK security research center Crest warns of a growing online “incelosphere,” where incels exchange ideas and perpetuate the belief that society is withholding sex from them.

This community appears to be gaining momentum in the UK, raising concerns about its influence on young individuals.

The case of Joshua Bowles and his self-identification as an incel highlights the need for attention to these online communities and their potential for radicalization and violence.

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