London Bridge terrorist came to Ilford for a second chance, inquest hears

Ummah Fitness Centre. Picture: Met Police

Ummah Fitness Centre. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

A London Bridge terrorist came to Ilford to begin a “new chapter” after an episode of showing “extremist beliefs”, an inquest has heard.

Youssef Zaghba. Picture: Met Police

Youssef Zaghba. Picture: Met Police - Credit: Archant

Youssef Zaghba was "lost" and was questioning what do do next with his life, after getting caught trying to travel to Syria.

His childhood friend told the Old Bailey, today (Friday, June 7) that Zaghba had promised he had not wanted to join ISIS and was only attempting to travel to the country as "Syria was a place of pure Islam" and he wanted to "grow a family".

"After this happened he took a different direction, he was concerned about his life and what to do and what to study," his friends said.

"He wanted to move to London to begin a new chapter - leave that behind."

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The friend stayed in contact when Zaghba moved to the capital but noticed he seemed to be a little isolated and unsure.

Zaghba initially wanted to carry on his learning and applied to go on a study course but when his application was rejected, he "didn't know what to do" next.

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"He was not studying anymore, working in the restaurant all the time," his friend said.

"He was just lost and not sure what to do with his own life."

The childhood friend also moved to the UK in May 2016 and boarded with Zaghba for a couple of days - sharing a room with him and another man who was Polish.

Asked whether he met any of Zaghba's acquaintances, the friend replied: "I had the impression he was less sociable, has less friends"

Asked what the terrorist thought of London life he answered: "I think he was a bit unsure at the time.

"He was still working but not sure what direction to take."

The lawyer asked: "Do you know how he got on the path [to terrorism]" and the friend replied: " I don't know. I still ask myself."

The Old Bailey also heard from another friend of Zaghba's who worked with him at Franzos, Ilford Lane.

They would see each other daily for shifts and also spend then together at one another's houses.

"He seemed to be a normal teenager just doing normal stuff," he said.

"He was really nice person easy to get along with seemed to have some things in common."

The co-worked described Zaghba as a "normal western Muslim" who also drank and smoked on occasions.

He changed his gym and started working out at Ummah Fitness Centre, St Lukes Avenue, Ilford as it was around the corner to his place of work.

Here he met Khuram Butt, 27 and Rachid Redouane, 30 - with whom he went on to slaughter eight and injure 48 in a van and knife assault in London Bridge on June 3, 2017.

Asked if there was any unusual behaviour in the month before the attach the colleague said: "We went to the beach in Southend. He was more strict, he didn't use Facebook any more - that was the only unusual thing I saw."

The co-worker however, did recall witnessing several instances of interaction between Butt and Zaghba.

In March 2017 while the colleagues socialised with family, Zaghba took a call form Butt.

He was told at short notice to come and help teach an Arabic class with kids at a school in Ilford.

The colleague at the time questioned why she should go straight away and be on call for a voluntary job, but Zagbah was "adamant" he had to go.

On another occasion the colleague and Zaghba met with the London Bridge ringleader to take his child swimming at a leisure centre in East Ham.

The men did not really speak much and spent some time swimming with "Albanian brothers" before going home.

"A short time after he was involved in combining a terrible terrorist attack," the coroner's lawyer said.

"Is there any signs, again looking back, that he would do something so awful?"

The colleague added "No sir".

The inquest continues.

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