London Bridge attacker had been caught with Islamic State propaganda
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Police caught the London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt with reams of Islamic State propaganda including martyrdom videos more than six months before the atrocity, but he was not prosecuted, a court has heard.
The inquest into the June 2017 attacks was told about a series of alleged missed opportunities by counter-terrorism investigators in the months before eight people were killed.
Butt was the ringleader and had been under investigation by police and MI5 since 2015 over fears he was planning an attack in the UK. He was under active investigation when he staged the attack on London Bridge, and the victim’s families believe opportunities were missed to realise the scale of the danger he posed.
A senior Metropolitan police counter-terrorism detective, known only as witness M, insisted police had not come across any material showing Butt was planning an attack.
Gareth Patterson QC, for the victim’s families, questioned the senior detective about a raid on Butt’s home in which his phone and laptop were examined by police.
The raid, over a fraud allegation, took place in October 2016 and resulted in no criminal charges after it was referred to the Crown Prosecution Service.
The inquest heard the material recovered from Butt’s phone and laptop included Isis propaganda about martyrdom and suicide missions, which Patterson said showed “an obsession with Islamic State”.
Butt had a YouTube subscription to an extremist preacher, material from other propagandists linked to inspiring and praising al-Qaida and Isis attacks, a voice message from one extremist saying he was looking forward to meeting Butt in paradise, and one in reply from Butt mentioning “like-minded brothers” in London who offered their support.
Patterson said: “Butt is speaking about death in the context of an obsession with martyrdom and suicide attacks.”
On Butt’s laptop, there was video of him clutching a knife and slitting the throat of a cow. There was also material about terrorist attacks in Paris and Brussels and a photo of Butt’s son with a toy gun.
Witness M said: “Yes, it is concerning … None of this material shows he was planning an attack or that an offence had been committed. I can only go where the legislation permits.”
Under sustained questioning from Patterson, Witness M said that before the attack, police:
-Had not investigated a gym Butt visited regularly.
-Were unaware it was linked to a man accused of setting up a training camp in Pakistan used to prepare for the 7 July 2005 attacks in London.
-Did not know Butt was associating, at the gym and elsewhere, with the two other men who carried out the London Bridge attack.
-Never investigated Butt’s phone to see who he was in regular contact with.
-Missed the fact Butt was regularly in contact via his phone with his fellow attackers, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba. Both phones were registered in their own names and thus their identities were discoverable.
-Did not know that almost every day Butt was teaching children at an Islamic school in east London that has now closed.
Witness M said: “I have never worked on a perfect operation. There are always lessons to be learned.”
He said that with hindsight, things would have been done differently, but did not specify what. He said there had been no “missed opportunity” to stop the attack and resources had been stretched.
Butt and the two other terrorists were shot dead by police 10 minutes after starting their attack.
The inquest continues into the deaths of two people run over by a van and six people stabbed to death.
Source: The Guardian