London attacker cheerful, joking on eve of rampage
Police are trying to learn what made him radicalized.
BIRMINGHAM, ENGLAND — Long before his short stints in jail turned into years behind bars, Khalid Masood was known as Adrian Elms, with a reputation for drinking and an unpredictable temper.
At least twice, he was convicted of violent crimes, well before he stabbed a police officer to death Wednesday in London with a motion that one horrified witness descri b ed as “playing a drum on your back with two knives.”
But as he checked out of his hotel to head toward London for his deadly rampage, the manager said he was struck by his guest’s friendly manner.
Within hours, Masood drove his rented SUV across the crowded Westminster Bridge, leaving a trail of dead and wounded. Then he jumped out and attacked Constable Keith Palmer, an officer guarding Parliament, stabbing him to death before being shot to death by police.
In all, he killed four peo- ple and left more than two dozen hospitalized.
Masood, who at 52 is considerably older than most
extremists who carry out bloodshed in the West, had an arrest record dating to 1983. The violence came later, first in 2000 when he slashed a man across the face in a pub parking lot in a racially charged argument after drinking four pints, according to a newspaper account.
The victim, Piers Mott, was scarred for life, said his widow, Heather.
Masood’s last conviction was in 2003, also involving a knife attack. It’s not clear when he took the name Masood, suggesting a conversion to Islam.
Heather Mott said Masood appeared to come out of jail “even worse.” She said she got chills when she learned the identity of the London attacker.
“What a pity they didn’t realize he was a nutter,” she said.
Police are combing through “massive amounts of computer data” and have contacted 3,500 witnesses as they look for clues as to why the British-born man launched the deadly attack.
“Clearly, that’s a main line of our investigation is what led him to be radicalized: Was it through influences in our community, influences from overseas or through online propaganda? Our investigations and our arrests will help in that, but the public appeal will make a big difference if people come forward with more information,” said Britain’s top counterterrorism officer, Mark Rowley.
A security official who spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about an ongoing investigation confirmed that Masood had spent time in Saudi Arabia but said investigators were still trying to determine how long he stayed and what he was doing.
Prime Minister Theresa May said Masood was “investigated in relation to concerns about violent extremism” years ago. But she called him “a peripheral figure.”
The Islamic State group described Masood as “a soldier,” claiming responsibility for the attack.