The un­likely ter­ror­ist

Lon­don at­tacker had a mid­dle-class pro­file with lapses into crim­i­nal­ity

CityPress - - News -

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

PHOTO: AP

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

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