Police missed 'opportunities galore' to foil the London Bridge attack after terrorists plotted in Ilford, an inquest heard
PUBLISHED: 15:35 31 May 2019 | UPDATED: 15:42 31 May 2019
Police had lots of opportunities to foil the London Bridge attack after the terrorists repeatedly met up in Ilford to make plans, an inquest heard.
Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22 congregated at the Ummah fitness centre, St Lukes Avenue, to make preparations and were seen meeting up in "the dead of night" to talk in 2017.
On June 3, of the same year, the terrorists killed eight and injured 48 after ploughing into pedestrians and launching a violent knife assault on innocent passersby.
Gareth Patterson QC, representing several victims' families, said evidence suggested that the three extremists were in contact with each other in January 2017 and there were "opportunities galore" to pick up on plotting.
At one point there was even an indication that Butt was trying to buy a gun.
He also told the Old Bailey today, Friday, May 31, that it would have taken a "significant period of time" for the trio to become so close and trust each other in order to plan an attack.
He said that Butt would have been "monitored" by a "reasonably competent surveillance" and he crossed paths with the other two terrorists on lots of occasions.
Det Chf Insp Wayne Jolley said he did not agree that there had been missed opportunities surrounding the men and said police would have been working with the intelligence they had.
QC Patterson pointed to the repeated contacts between the men, including a barbecue at Butt's Barking home in May at which Redouane was present.
He also noted that Butt and Redouane were in contact with each other "again and again for months" and in various ways including at the gym and by telephone.
"Any reasonably competent investigation should have been looking at Redouane at this stage, I would submit," said Mr Patterson
Det Chf Insp Jolley told the court: "Again, that would depend on the intelligence at that time."
Zaghba had also been in telephone contact with Butt, visited him at home and was allowed to drive his car.
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"All of these things, when pulled together, I would suggest, is crying out to be looked at, " added QC Patterson.
The QC told the court that all three men were at the gym in May "in the dead of night, speaking together in the street" in what he described as a "highly suspicious conversation".
A telephone was placed on the ground before the men began walking and talking during that meeting.
The act was described as a "classic anti-surveillance technique" and which suggested, "the attack planning was there to be detected".
The court was also told that Zaghba had held extremist views from childhood.
He celebrated the 9/11 attacks in the US and had Islamic State flags on his Facebook page.
He also tried to fly abroad to fight for IS, and Jihadist material was found on an SD card which was seized from him when he was stopped at an airport.
Some of the digital items seized were pictures of IS flags, scenes where he was joking about Osama Bin Laden, and an online piece about a verse in the Koran which says that non-believers will go to hell.
Dominic Adamson, representing Mr Xavier Thomas's family, said Butt had expressed a desire to travel to Syria and also to hold an attack in the UK.
He said Butt was contemptuous of British culture and accessed extreme material online.
He suggested it was a "reasonable assumption" to think that attack planning had taken place at the gym, to which Det Chf Insp Jolley replied that he "would always be careful about making assumptions".
Richard Horwell QC, for the Metropolitan Police, asked: "In the months leading up the attack was there any evidence of any attack planning?"
Det Chf Insp Jolley replied: "Not that we uncovered, sir, no."