An Ilford primary was not the only school London Bridge terrorists taught at, inquest hears
PUBLISHED: 15:25 05 June 2019 | UPDATED: 15:52 05 June 2019
Police failing to investigate several primary schools where a London Bridge terrorist worked was “a very real missed opportunity”, an inquest heard.
Khuram Butt of Barking worked most days at Ad-Deen Primary, Oxford Road, Ilford and Youssef Zaghba of Ilford was also known to help out with the children.
The school was run by suspected extremist Sajeel Shahid who was accused of helping to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan attended by one of the July 7 bombers and being involved with extremist group Al-Muhajiroun.
In the months leading up to the attack, police had been given intelligence that Butt had been employed at other schools but officers failed to discover the locations.
Police also did not investigate another of Shahid's businesses, the Ummah Fitness Centre, in St Luke's Avenue, Ilford, where Butt worked and trained.
Police were not aware of the "significance" of the location, despite attackers Butt, Zaghba and Rachid Redouane, using the gym to plan the London Bridge attack which killed eight and injured 48 on June 3, 2017.
Gareth Patterson QC, representing six of the victims' families, suggested the police failure to look at the gym and the school was a missed chance to stop the atrocity.
A senior counter-terrorism police officer, identified only as Witness M, said: "There was no intelligence that suggested the gym was significant prior to the attack and we followed the intelligence around a number of schools and it was uncorroborated."
Asked if he believed opportunities to stop the terror plot were missed, he said: "There is nothing I could look back on and say 'this was a missed opportunity around a significant disruption', nor was there anything that we had in our possession at the time that indicated any attack was being planned."
Mr Patterson suggested extremist material found on Butt's phone and laptop when he was arrested for fraud in 2016 showed he had an "obsession" with Isis and a willingness to die.
The material included images of Isis executions and suicide bombers, a terrorist propaganda magazine, pictures of Isis captives with guns held to their heads, and an image of a man with a spade embedded in his face.
There was also a home video of Butt cutting the throat of a cow and comparing it to the massacre of 600 Jewish men.
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WhatsApp messages had been exchanged with the extremist preacher Ahmed Musa Jibril asking if people have visions of the future before death, and Jibril suggested he would see Butt in paradise.
Witness M said: "This rhetoric, this conversation, this mindset we see right the way across the spectrum of all the subjects of interest we deal with.
"None of this material shows that he was planning for an attack or that any offence had been committed."
The court was shown a CCTV still of the three attackers all meeting at Butt's flat in March 2017, and Mr Patterson gave details of repeated phone contact between the three.
Analysis of MI5 surveillance of the gym after the attack showed that Butt may have also tried to buy a gun at this time.
Under cross-examination by Dominic Adamson, who represents the family of victim Xavier Thomas, Witness M agreed that the intelligence-led approach to terrorism failed to identify the plot.
"Are you saying that this attack was unstoppable," said Mr Adamson
The officer replied: "No. I don't think I've ever said that and I don't think any of the reports that came out subsequently have said that.
"It's not one single factor, it's a combination."
Mr Adamson asked why investigators had not looked into the fact that Shahid was linked to the Ad-Deen Primary School and added:
"The impression is that unless information is handed to you, you are not making proactive inquiries into locations which we now know are very significant.
"I suggest to you any reasonable investigator would have thought they were significant at the time." Witness M replied: "We did make proactive inquiries based on the intelligence we had."
The inquest continues.
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