AFGHANISTAN and the Taliban’s triumphant takeover of Kabul has swept through the media savaging, Joe Biden, the Tory government and the world’s intelligence services. It is such a huge, all-encompassing story that it has dominated front pages, and unusually for an international story has forced some big subjects into retreat.

In different times, the mass killings in Plymouth would still be dominating the news agenda, having briefly unleashed a ­series of debates around terrorism, ­misogyny and gun legislation, but no matter how relevant they still are, they have faded into the inner pages of most newspapers, overwhelmed by events in Afghanistan.

News priorities aside, we should not let the Plymouth killings disappear entirely. Davison, a 23-year-old apprentice crane operator claimed in social media ­videos to be “defeated by life”, blaming his ­problems on his lack of a ­girlfriend. His ­final hours seem to have been stoked by his dark wanderings among the “incel” ­extremists in the sub-Reddit ­communities of the web and his murderous last few hours, in which he killed his own mother, and four other people, including a passer-by and a three-year-old child, are a depressing ­catalogue of prejudice and delusion.

Davison’s online attacks on his mother stands out as a horrific abuse of women and familial love. In one comment, he wrote to an online contact: “Try being an unemployed autistic poor sexually ­frustrated male with tons of health ­issues and no social circle and being stuck in government housing with my ­disgusting abusive mother for years on end and ­having missed out on so much in life and then come back and tell me if you’re not negative.”

There is so much to question about the Plymouth killings, not least why a young man with a troubled mental health ­background was granted a gun licence, and then had it renewed. Beyond that, there is the incel sub-culture that has ­given voice to a despicable and self-demeaning misogyny.

But another aspect of Davison’s ­online rage has been overshadowed by the incel debate. It was his questionable use of ­autism as a mitigating factor.

As the father of a child with an autism spectrum diagnosis, Davison’s ­self-pitying ramblings raised a chilling and worrying red-flag for me. Nor was it the only calumny in a week of global drama.

Buried beneath the rubble of Kabul was another alarming story, the trial of Jarrod Ramos, a 41-year-old the man who killed five people inside a local newsroom in Maryland, in what is now known as the Capital Gazette Killings. Ramos also claimed that an autism spectrum ­disorder lay behind his delusionary belief that a ­local newspaper the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, was conspiring against him.

Ramos’s legal team argued that his autism meant he was not criminally ­responsible for the 2018 mass shooting. Fortunately, on Thursday last, as the Taliban advance seemed certain, Ramos’s plea was rejected. He was found to be “sane” and criminally responsible for the mass shooting. Ramos will now be sentenced to prison rather than a maximum-security mental health facility.

Claiming a defendant is not “criminally responsible” is the State of Maryland’s ­version of the insanity defence. It hinges on the notion that defendants can’t be held responsible for a crime if mental ­illness prevents them from ­understanding their actions are criminal or from ­following the law.

Although Ramos’s legal team lost the ­argument by mounting a ­highly ­speculative and deeply damaging ­argument, their ­defence of Ramos ­threaten to further ­stigmatise people ­living with autism and harm the ­prospects for greater ­understanding of neuro-diversity.

Autism activists have reacted forcefully against the Ramos defence. Sam Crane, the legal director for the Autistic Self ­Advocacy Network, a national group based in Washington DC claimed that “Autism doesn’t in any way interfere with a person’s ability to understand that it’s wrong to kill people”. Crane said. “In fact, he added, “a lot of autistic people are extremely empathetic”.

It is a fact borne out in my own household where my son is not only empathetic but has a very developed sense of right and wrong. Whilst he may have ­challenges in comprehension and core social communication skills, he is deeply caring and has won school certificates for his the care and support he shows to others.

Christopher Banks, president of the ­Autism Society of America, called the ­arguments in the Ramos case, ­“dangerous” and fears that they will “further promote stigmas and violence against people with autism, and disrupt all that we and other disability ­organisations work towards”.

IT is a view endorsed by many autism advocates here in Scotland too. Laura ­McConnell, the Edinburgh-based writer and public speaker was one of several ­actually autistic activists who shared views from Scotland’s neurodiversity communities. One commentator, the splendidly named Charlie of Mystery Spring argued a salient point about the Plymouth killings.

“Incels may be socially isolated which can be true for many ­autistic people as well” he tweeted, “but they also appear to be obsessed with social status and social dominance which is … not true for most autistic people. Not at all.”

The old adage that bad news “comes in threes” came true for autism activists.

As the British press shifted away from the killings in Plymouth, to regime-change in Afghanistan, Alek Minassian, a young man with Asperger’s Syndrome came to court accused of 10 counts of murder and 13 counts of attempted murder, ­after driving a van into a crowded group of pedestrians in Toronto. His arrest and trial have further complicated the debates about autism.

The Canadian broadcaster CBC ­quoted, Michael Cnudde, another activist, who baulked at lawyers using autism as a defence for their client. “There’s a lot of damage that’s been done already,” he told television news in Canada, dismissing the defence’s arguments as “junk science”.

I know from my own day-to-day experience that autism spectrum disorders are not routinely associated with violent ­behaviour. In fact, studies have found that people with developmental disabilities and mental illness are much more likely to be the victims of crime rather than the perpetrators.

This hunch has been borne out by the most in-depth study of autism and violent crime. A study in Sweden by the ­Karolinska Institute, studies 50,000 young people aged 15-27 and concluded that being autistic reduces the likelihood that you will be involved in ­violent crime.

Raising autism as a courtroom device to either reduce a sentence or avoid jail runs the serious risk of creating the ­inaccurate perception that autism is inextricably linked with violence, and risks providing a simplistic explanation to often complex behaviours and motivations. The facts prove otherwise.

The claims that Jake Davison has made about his pathetic life and brutal last hours have misrepresented the autistic community, perpetuating ­stereotypes and ­sharing misconceptions. Events in ­Maryland and Toronto risked ­accentuating stigmas around autism and the sheer chance of three such violent ­episodes coming together in the same week, ran the serous risk of exposing those with autism with unmerited stigma.

It transpired that the dramatic advance of the Taliban may have distracted the media from making false accusations and raising unwarranted alarm about autism. I sincerely hope that the “junk-science” of three otherwise unconnected killers stays buried in the rubble of a much bigger global story.