AN EX-GCHQ worker who tried to kill a US spy in a “premeditated, targeted and vicious” knife attack at a leisure centre in Gloucestershire has been jailed for life.

Armed with two knives, Joshua Bowles punched and stabbed the woman repeatedly at the centre some three miles from the UK intelligence agency’s base in Cheltenham on March 9.

Afterwards, the ex-computer developer said he had targeted her because he could not handle the “murky waters of ethics” and “the power that the American NSA have and the things they do”, adding: “I make a pretty s*** terrorist, don’t I?”

The court heard that the 29-year-old defendant had planned the attack and searched the internet for topics including American Unabomber terrorist Theodore Kaczynski, attacks on women, and white supremacy.

Bowles, of Welwyn Mews, Cheltenham, pleaded guilty to the attempted murder of the woman, referred to by the code number 99230, and assaulting a man who attempted to intervene, causing him actual bodily harm.

Gazette Series: Joshua Bowles has been sentenced to life with a minimum term of 13 years for attempted murder Joshua Bowles has been sentenced to life with a minimum term of 13 years for attempted murder (Image: Counter Terrorism Policing South East)

On Monday, Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb found it was a “politically motivated attack” driven by “anger and resentment” towards GCHQ and women.

The senior judge sentenced Bowles at the Old Bailey to life with a minimum term of 13 years.

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb found Bowles’s internet history showed he had a “deep disaffection with society and a desire to challenge authority”.

Prosecutor Duncan Penny KC said it was a “pre-meditated, targeted and vicious attack on an unarmed woman”.

He told the court: “That woman was a United States government employee working in the United Kingdom.

“She was attacked by a man who was carrying two knives and she was stabbed three times outside, and in the reception area of, a leisure centre in Cheltenham.

“Her selection as the target for this attack was entirely and solely associated with her role as a US government employee in the National Security Agency (NSA) of the United States.”

The woman had been playing netball at the leisure centre on the evening of March 9 and was followed as she left with a friend, who was a fellow US national identified as 25869.

When she heard someone say “Excuse me”, she turned round and was punched repeatedly in the face.

She fought back, kicking and screaming, as her friend hit him with her bag and told him to leave her alone.

Alex Fuentes, who was on his way to play football, was punched in the face when he asked Bowles “What’s going on?”

His intervention allowed the two women to run back into the centre’s reception area, pursued by the defendant seconds later.

Mr Penny said: “The CCTV footage shows the defendant holding a knife and lunging towards 99230, who was trying to back away. She describes that ‘It felt like he hated me … his focus was me’.”

Steve Bunn, another visitor to the leisure centre, saw blood flowing from the woman’s mouth and down her chin and throat.

Describing the resumed attack, he said: “He was on her, immediately, grabbed her and was moving around in such a way it was obvious he was trying to hit her or hurt her, he was striking at her.

“It looked like he was throwing punches or attacking her with punches.”

He grabbed the defendant, enabling the two women to escape again before Bowles dropped a knife on the floor.

Mr Bunn said the defendant’s “frenzied aggression just dissipated” once the two women had left. Asked if he was OK, Bowles said: “No, I’ve just tried to kill her.”

While waiting for police, the defendant told Mr Bunn he would understand if he knew what they did at GCHQ.

He said Bowles was “making out that he was disgusted by the manner in which they gather information and use things against people” and was “appalled by the agency (99230) works for”.

The court was told the victim’s injuries included cuts to her abdomen, chest and thigh.

In a victim impact statement, she said that using the defendant’s name made her “feel sick” and brought back “awful memories”.

She said: “I now know he used to work where I work and I’m devastated by this.

“This attack has had a profound effect on me and it’s utterly and completely changed my life.

In a statement, the defendant, who has Asperger’s syndrome, told police he had targeted her because she was employed by the National Security Agency.

He said: “Due to the size and resourcing, American intelligence represents the largest contributor within the intelligence community so it made sense as the symbolic target. I consider GCHQ just as guilty.”

Tim Forte, defending, expressed Bowles’ “profound regret, remorse and shame at what he has done”.

Mr Forte rejected any terrorist connection, saying the depressed defendant’s twin motivations were being “ghosted” by another former American co-worker who was the “object of his affections”, and a desire to hurt his ex-employer.

Detective Chief Superintendent Olly Wright, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE), said: “The attack that Bowles carried out was planned and incredibly violent involving two innocent victims.

“Now that the court proceedings have concluded, I really do hope that the victim can begin to rebuild.”

“I don’t underestimate the impact this incident would have had on the victim and her family and friends and on the brave witnesses who intervened.

“I actually believe they saved her life. I would really like to thank them for it. They should be very proud of themselves.”

A GCHQ spokesperson said: “This was a shocking, unprovoked attack and its isolated nature does not make it any less upsetting. 

“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families. 

“GCHQ has been working closely with police during their investigation and we welcome justice being done.”