The unlikely terrorist
London attacker had a middle-class profile with lapses into criminality
Khalid Masood, who killed five people in Britain’s deadliest terror attack since the 2005 London bombings, has lived a life in the heart of middle England that is far removed from the stereotypical image of an Islamic State “soldier”. He had a middle-class upbringing and lived with his attractive partner in a neat bungalow.
Security services are investigating what drove the middleaged former English teacher to unleash mayhem in Westminster in central London on Wednesday.
While recruitment propaganda by the fundamentalist group Islamic State typically shows disaffected young men posing with AK-47s while wearing militaristic camouflage gear, Masood is a 52-year-old father.
Even in the hours before the attack, witnesses said he was smiling and polite as he chatted about his plans to visit London, although he allegedly said: “It isn’t what it used to be.”
Masood briefly lived in London, but grew up in the affluent towns of Rye, East Sussex and Tunbridge Wells in Kent, where friends say he was a popular, intelligent schoolboy who was obsessed with football and who had “no interest in religion”.
He was born Adrian Russell Elms on Christmas Day in 1964, and his birth certificate gives his single mother’s name as Janet Elms, then a 17-year-old office worker from Croydon in south London.
His father’s name is not recorded, although Elms married Phillip Ajao two years later, and he is listed as Masood’s father in subsequent records.
School friends at the Huntley School for Boys in Tunbridge Wells knew him as Adrian Ajao – or “black Ade” – and said he was popular and fun-loving.
Friend Kenton Till said: “He wasn’t religious at all. He was a big character, very friendly and a good laugh. He might have been the only black kid at the school. He experienced a little bit of racism, but not a lot because he always tried to be popular.”
Another friend, Tim Burchell, said: “Adrian would sing soul music with a voice like Marvin Gaye. A whole load of us would go around to his house. He had a brilliant voice, he was a really good singer.”
Despite his academic promise and popularity, Masood’s life appeared to go off the rails soon after he left Huntley and began working at a local branch of Woolworths.
A friend who asked not to be named said: “As he got older, he got a bit distant and lost his way, and I just put that down to drugs. He got into drug dealing or taking drugs. He owed people a lot of money and then he just disappeared.”
At 19, Masood received his first court conviction – for criminal damage in 1983 – and he became increasingly involved in petty and violent crime. Over the next two decades, the burly bodybuilder was convicted of a catalogue of offences, including assaults, grievous bodily harm, possession of weapons and public order offences. He was sent to prison twice.
He drifted from job to job, working as a sales rep and running a television aerial installation business. In 1991, he met Jane Harvey (48), a successful businesswoman.
He moved into her home in the affluent village of Northiam, near Rye in east Sussex. The couple had two daughters and Masood worked as a manager in Harvey’s business, Aaron Chemicals. But when their eldest daughter was eight, Masood was jailed for two years after slashing a man’s face with a knife in a violent confrontation outside a local pub.
After his release from prison, he abandoned his partner and two young daughters to pursue Islam. He went to live in a run-down area in Eastbourne. He also became estranged from his mother, who is now 69 and who moved to rural Wales to build a new life away from him.
A neighbour said tragedy struck the family when Masood’s daughter Andi was almost killed when she was hit by a car as she ran to catch a school bus. Her injuries were so serious that she was left wheelchair-bound – an event that may have affected Masood’s decision to use a car to mow down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge this week.
Masood convinced his elder daughter, now 24, to convert to Islam, change her name and wear a burka. This sparked a bitter fight with Harvey. He had also asked his younger daughter, now 19, to convert and move to Birmingham with him, a friend said, but the girl refused.
There is no suggestion that any members of the family, including the elder daughter, are radical Islamists or knew about Masood’s extreme beliefs or his plans.
Masood moved to Luton, a town that radical preacher and Islamic State supporter Anjem Choudary frequently visited. According to Masood’s online CV, he began working as an English tutor.
The department of education has said he had not held qualified teaching status and had not taught in any state school in England.
His next long-term relationship was with Rohey Hydara (39), with whom he shared a series of short-term homes in London and Luton. Hydara was released on bail pending further inquiries on Friday. She was arrested on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts.
At some point, he was investigated by UK security service MI5 regarding links to violent extremism, but was considered too minor to monitor.
– Daily Mail
AFTERMATH Pedestrians look at floral tributes laid for the victims of Wednesday’s attack in Westminster outside the Houses of Parliament in London. Authorities have identified Briton Khalid Masood as the man who mowed down pedestrians and stabbed a policeman to death in the worst terror attack in Britain in 12 years