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Terror plotter had 16 meetings with Prevent officers, court hears

Terror plotter had 16 meetings with Prevent officers, court hears

A Muslim convert plotted a terror attack on Oxford Street despite repeated attempts by authorities to deradicalise him, a court has heard. The former Royal Mail worker Lewis Ludlow, 27, of Rochester, Kent, said he was filled with “animosity and hatred” when he swore allegiance to Islamic State, the Old Bailey heard. All the while,…

A Muslim convert plotted a terror attack on Oxford Street despite repeated attempts by authorities to deradicalise him, a court has heard.

The former Royal Mail worker Lewis Ludlow, 27, of Rochester, Kent, said he was filled with “animosity and hatred” when he swore allegiance to Islamic State, the Old Bailey heard.

All the while, he appeared to engage with the Prevent deradicalisation programme, having had 16 meetings and a phonecall with officers over the six months before his arrest last April.

One of the meetings was on the same day that Ludlow had carried out reconnaissance of targets around the capital, taking photographs of Oxford Street and Madame Tussauds.

Ludlow planned to kill up to 100 people in a “ram attack” after being stopped by police at Heathrow airport in February 2018 as he attempted to board a flight to the Philippines.

The defendant, who called himself “the Eagle” and “the Ghost”, had bought a phone under a false name and wrote down his attack plans, which were later found ripped up in a bin in his home.

He pleaded guilty last year to plotting an attack in the UK and giving money to Isis in the Philippines and appeared at the Old Bailey on Thursday to be sentenced.

The prosecutor Mark Heywood QC set out Ludlow’s past association with extremists in Britain and abroad.

He said the Prevent programme had attempted to engage with Ludlow since November 2008, when his college had raised concerns about his religious beliefs and his carrying a knife.

In 2010, Ludlow attended a demonstration led by the radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned group al-Muhajiroun.

He was pictured with the convicted terrorist Trevor Brooks and had secret communication with the British jihadist Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria.

In June 2015, he discussed with Hussain doing something before travelling abroad and mentioned his job at Royal Mail.

He wrote: “At my job at a Royal Mail warehouse we had a book that mentions how staff look out for suspicious items like bombs.

“I’m thinking should I find this info out more as Royal Mail rarely check items. It is perfect to send something lethal through.”

Hussain told him it was a “good idea” and Ludlow promised to “look into it”.

That year he was arrested and Isis material was recovered from Ludlow’s phone but no further action was taken.

Ludlow had cut off contact with Prevent two years before but resumed meetings with officers in November 2017, while concealing his true feelings.

In January 2018, he bought a ticket to fly to the Philippines on 3 February but was stopped at the airport and had his passport seized.

In March, having set up a PayPal account and an antique collections Facebook site, he sent money to an alleged extremist called Abu Yaqeen in an area of the Philippines with a significant Isis presence.

Police went on to recover torn-up scraps of paper from Ludlow’s bin detailing potential attack sites in Britain.

On Oxford Street, he planned to use a van to mount the pavement, noting the lack of safety barriers.

A handwritten note found in Lewis Ludlow’s bin by counter-terrorism officers.

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A handwritten note found in Lewis Ludlow’s bin by counter-terrorism officers. Photograph: Counter Terrorism Policing South East/PA

He said: “Wolf should either use a ram attack or use … on the truck to maximise death … it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack. It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack.”

Heywood said there was evidence the defendant wanted to recruit a second attacker as he did not have a driving licence and was “scared” of crashing.

In mitigation, Rebecca Trowler QC said Ludlow, who has autism, was directed by the extremist in the Philippines and his plans were “embryonic”.

Giving evidence, Ludlow, who converted to Islam at 16, told how he had dropped out of school after he had been bullied for nine years.

He said: “I was a loner. I was on my own and it was sad. People would say they found me too strange. It was really depressing. I felt everyone hated me and I thought I would be better off dead.”

Ludlow said he found al-Muhajiroun online and was invited to demonstrations.

At first it was “friendly” and he was seen as “funny”, but after two years things turned sour and he was suspected of being a spy, he said. The sentencing hearing is due to last up to three days before Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC.

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