EXCLUSIVE: Meet the men who saved Labour MP from murder plot hatched by far right group

HOPE not Hate’s head of intelligence – was on a rare family holiday when he received an urgent message. “Inside man” Robbie Mullen, who passed Collins information from within the banned neo-Nazi group National Action, needed him to call.

In the months after the murder of MP Jo Cox, Mullen had come to Collins warning NA were training for a “race war”. Now the 23-year-old mole told his handler there was an actual plot.

That night at the pub, NA members revealed a plan to kill local MP Rosie Cooper and a female police officer “within two to three days”.

Group spokesman Jack Renshaw had already acquired the weapon from a DIY trade fair, a 19-inch machete, and planned to wear a fake suicide vest so he would be killed by police.

He planned to target Ms Cooper at her constituency surgery, in a horrifying echo of the murder of Ms Cox by far-right terrorist Thomas Mair in 2016.

Collins rang his boss Nick Lowles, who alerted the Parliamentary Police.

Arrests were made and Ms Cooper’s life was saved, along with the life of DC Victoria Henderson, who had been probing Renshaw for child sex offences.

Nearly five years on from that phone call in the summer of 2017, the story of the foiled plot starts on ITV on Monday.

The Walk-In, a five-parter, stars Stephen Graham as Matthew Collins, while Robbie Mullen will be played by Andrew Ellis, who worked with Graham on the This Is England series.

The same day it was announced last week, Ms Cooper stepped down as MP for West Lancashire for an NHS role.

“My life changed on that day, and it can’t ever go back,” Mullen, 27, says, when we meet at a secret location.

“It never seems to go away. The TV series has brought it back again.”

The consequences for both men were profound. “National Action meant the world to Robbie,” Collins, 50, says.

“We ripped it out of him. He was never able to see his friends again. He had to move house. He was thrust into the spotlight in a way he never wanted.”

Ever since the plot was foiled, Collins, who has written a book to accompany the series, has been suffering trauma.

“I get these mind blanks from the PTSD,” he says. “I can’t even remember my kids’ names. It’s debilitating.”

He adds: “This takes a toll on you. I’ve been in it 30 years as a fascist, a mole, an anti-fascist.

“I’ve taken part in awful things. I’ve been beaten up so many times I had to have new teeth. I get anxious in crowds.

“When people say they are going to hunt down your mother and rape her to teach you a lesson, and there has been a credible threat to your children, it has an effect on you.

“I’ve days when I can’t get out of bed. I go for periods where I don’t sleep.”

Even security around filming the ITV series has had to be tight, with a press embargo and closely guarded scripts.

The result is a taut drama that hums with the tension and danger of HOPE not Hate’s life-saving work.

It is television with a unique after-life – two more members of the far right have flipped since hearing about the drama and understanding how HOPE not Hate can get them out. Collins says watching the drama has been surreal. “I’ve lived through it but to see it on screen it’s quite shocking.

“When I saw Jo Cox’s murder depicted in the series, I had a cry over that. It’s very hard to watch.”

Mullen adds the drama has got him crying when he never cries, and smoking when he doesn’t smoke.

Both men say they experience harassment from the security services.

They have been detained at airports, and can have their phones seized.

“The police were at my door yesterday,” Mullen says. “Probably because of the drama. They said I can’t stay in the house because there’s kids. I’m a danger because of my links to National Action. It’ll get sorted out but for now I’m sleeping on someone’s couch waiting for social services to investigate.”

HOPE not Hate never gave up Mullen to the security services, despite police demands. The organisation and Thompson’s solicitors went to great lengths to keep him safe.

“They said, ‘you’ve broken the law, tell us everything you know,’” Collins says. “‘Hand over this person.’ We said, ‘No. You’ve saved the MP’s life. We will hide the boy’.” Last time I met Mullen was after the NA trial where Renshaw was jailed for life with a minimum of 20 years over the plot.

Renshaw, played by Dean-Charles Chapman, was also jailed for grooming two boys online and was given a three-year sentence for inciting racial hatred after calling for genocide against Jewish people.

But he denied NA membership and the jury in that 2019 trial was dismissed after it did not reach a verdict. Back then, Mullen was adamant he didn’t feel like a hero despite saving two lives.

Eating breakfast in a cafe where both men regularly check the windows, I asked him if he had changed his mind now he’s the subject of an ITV drama.

“No,” he shrugs. “I just did what I did.”

Collins says Mullen fits the profile of many young, single, white, angry men who join the far right.

He was once one himself, rising to become the South London chairman of the National Front and an activist with terror group Combat 18.

Turning informant after witnessing a brutal attack on mainly Asian women in East London led to him spending a decade hiding out in Australia.

I’ve known Collins for years, and we’ve spoken about how painful it is to betray friends, even if they are violent Nazis.

“It’s easy to understand what the far right offers,” Collins says. “Robbie didn’t understand his place in society.

“He had lost his father in a way he felt was unfair. He had a burning anger. Robbie wasn’t hoodwinked into getting involved in the far right, he thought, ‘this is the perfect place for me’.”

Collins says the terror plot changed HOPE not Hate too. “National Action were two or three days from beheading an MP at her surgery,” he says.

“We barely knew who they were. It’s changed how we do things for ever.

“The police were embarrassed by Robbie Mullen. They’d told the Home Secretary Amber Rudd that National Action were finished.

“They never think spotty white boys look like terrorists. The far right are seen as a public order nuisance, as drunken hooligans. National Action were training in martial arts. Like other far-right groups they were envious of Jihadi John – so much so they have created their own version, White Jihad.

“These groups have even developed a spiritualism to go with it caught up in Satanism. They have methods involving desensitising yourself with sexual violence and paedophilia.

“The plot was an extension of these ideas. That terror threat hasn’t gone away. The direction they have gone in is so dark and dangerous. The police officer was chosen because Renshaw had planned to die as a White Jihadi rather than be arrested as a paedophile.

“Rosie Cooper was only chosen because she was an MP, local to the group and a woman.”

Mullen told me five years ago that part of the attraction to National Action was that it made him feel powerful.

And the other part was that NA gave him a false framework – Jews were controlling all the things that were wrong in his life. He says he still feels alienated, but I can see a change in him.

Mullen speaks of his concern for a little girl he’s seen being neglected by her family. And it’s most visible when he talks about the puppy he has just bought with some of the money that came from advising on the drama.

“The guy was offering me one dog, but I could see a sick puppy in the background. I knew he was going to drown it,” he says. Robbie bought the runt of the litter and has restored him to health.

Does he think he’s changed? “No, not really,” he says. What does he think about when he’s out walking his dog? “I think that nobody won,” he says. “It broke everyone. Them and us.”

He looks across at Collins, who is looking out of the cafe and across the street. “There was no winners was there?” he asks Collins.

Collins puts down his coffee. “Rosie Cooper was the winner,” he says.