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London - A British internet troll caused “hysteria” in America by posting messages on Facebook threatening to kill hundreds of people in a school massacre, a court heard on Friday.

Reece Elliott, 24, said he would drive to a school in Tennessee and “kill at least 200 before I kill myself”.

He suggested someone should call police because “I’m on my way”.

On Friday, after a judge warned Elliott he faces a jail term, his girlfriend said: “He only did it for a laugh.”

The father of one, from South Shields, South Tyneside, posted the threat and other offensive comments “to see what kind of reaction he could provoke”, Newcastle Crown Court heard on Friday.

As a result, 3 000 children were kept off school on that day in Warren County, Tennessee.

Security was stepped up at schools across the area as the authorities implemented “lockdown”, with armed guards on duty and restricted access to schools.

The Facebook threats were made at a time when tension was high in the US following the slaughter of 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, last December, by gunman Adam Lanza.

Elliott admitted one count of making threats to kill and eight of sending grossly offensive messages.

He has been held in custody since his arrest in February and was told by Judge James Goss that a prison term was “inevitable”. Sentencing was adjourned for reports.

The FBI and Homeland Security traced the culprit to Elliott’s mother’s address in South Shields. He had been staying there following an argument with his girlfriend.

Elliott was “well aware that he was wanted” and handed himself in to police. The threat was made on a tribute site to 17-year-old Caitlin Talley, a popular student at Warren County High School who was killed in a car accident last October.

Using a false name, Elliott wrote: “My father has three guns. I’m planning on killing him first and putting him in a dumpster. Then I’m taking the motor and I’m going in fast. I’m gonna kill hopefully at least 200 before I kill myself. So you want to tell the deputy, I’m on my way.”

He also wrote vile abuse about the dead teenager.

Gary Buckley, prosecuting, said of Elliott: “He said he was a part-time troll. He said he decided to post offensive comments to see what kind of reaction he could provoke.

“He confirmed he did post the postings on Facebook and therefore did make these threats but he didn’t expect the threats to be taken seriously and didn’t expect them to cause the reaction they did.”

Mr Buckley said by using the American terms “dumpster” and “deputy”, Elliott made his threats seem more believable.

Speaking after his arrest, his girlfriend, who did not want to be named, said: “Reece has a child himself, he would not hurt children.

“He does things for a laugh on Facebook – that’s what he does.” - Daily Mail