Ahmed Hassan, you have been found guilty by a Jury of the Old Bailey of Attempted Murder on overwhelming evidence. This is a case of attempted multiple murder. I will now sentence you for this most serious offence. Please sit down.
Shortly before 7 am on Friday 15th September 2017, you left your foster parent’s home in Sunbury on foot carrying a heavy Lidl shopping bag and headed for Sunbury railway station.
The Lidl bag must have looked innocuous enough to members of the public, including children, who passed you; but, in fact, its contents were extremely sinister and dangerous.
It contained an improvised explosive device (“IED”) which you had spent the previous hours, days and weeks, meticulously researching, refining and manufacturing in your bedroom at 47 Cavendish Road where you lived with your foster parents.
The IED contained 400 grams of the high explosive Triacetone Triperoxide (“TATP”). The explosive TATP (or “Mother of Satan” as it is sometimes known) has increasingly become the explosive of choice for terrorists. You packed the device with 2.2 kilograms of metal shrapnel comprising nails, screws, bolts, sockets, knives and screw-drivers. You had a home-made initiator in your pocket which you had manufactured out of a kitchen timer.
Your intention that morning was to kill as many members of the British public as possible by planting the IED on a busy commuter tube train and then make your escape to the Continent via Dover according to a pre-arranged plan.
You took the overground from Sunbury to Wimbledon and, on arrival, disappeared into the public toilets. There you set the timer for 15 minutes and placed it with the device inside the Lidl bag. You then boarded a District Line tube train at Wimbledon which left at 8:08 am heading towards Edgware. You positioned yourself by the rear right-hand door in Car 6 of the tube and placed the Lidl bag on the floor beside you. The CCTV shows that Car 6 began to fill up Page 2 of 11 with commuters at the intermediate stops of Wimbledon Park, Southfields and East Putney all heading to work in Central London. When the tube arrived at Putney Bridge station at 8:17 am you slipped out as more people boarded the carriage and made your way down the stairs and out of the station. You were wearing a beanie hat, a grey jumper and headphones and were making a conscious effort to behave casually and blend in to the crowd. You knew that approximately two minutes later your IED would go off killing (you hoped) dozens of people in the tube.
At 8:19:54 am your IED exploded in Car 6 of the District Line tube train shortly after it had arrived at the next stop, Parsons Green station. There were approximately 93 people in the carriage when the device went off. The IED created a large fireball which rolled along the ceiling of the carriage. Numerous passengers sustained burns to their faces, heads, hair, arms and legs and were showered with glass. People ran out in fear and panic, helping other victims as they went. A major incident was declared. A total of 23 passengers received burns injuries, some significant; and a total of 28 people who were on the tube or at Parsons Green station that day suffered crush injuries in the aftermath of the incident. Fortunately, no one was killed.
Those at the rear end of Car 6 that day were very fortunate. Things could easily have been so much worse. You made and planted a very significant explosive device. Given the amount of TATP (400 grams) used and the weight and variety of shrapnel packed around it (2.2 kg), had the device fully detonated as you designed and intended, it is inevitable that there would have been numerous fatalities and serious casualties, particularly amongst those in the closest proximity standing or sitting nearest to the IED. I am satisfied that it was your desire and intention to kill significant numbers of members of the public on that busy tube train that morning.
It is sheer luck that the main charge did not fully detonate. This was due, most likely, to the initiator moving out of place and not igniting the main charge. As a result, it triggered only a partial explosion, or what the Prosecution explosives expert, Dr Sarah Wilson (a Senior Forensic Case Officer at the Forensic Explosives Laboratory at the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory) called a violent ‘deflagration’ as opposed to a detonation of the main charge.
The immediate aftermath was marked by remarkable bravery by passengers caught up in this incident, in particular, a recently retired Met police officer and an ex-Army officer, both of whom had the presence of mind to approach the device as it continued to burn in order to assess its remaining danger and warn others and the authorities. The Met explosives team were quickly on the scene to neutralise it.
I am satisfied that you were determined to create as much death and carnage that day as possible. You had filled the Tupperware box you had selected with 300 grams of TATP, and when you found you had excess, you put the remaining 100 grams into a blue glass jar which you then placed on top of the Tupperware, in order to maximise the main charge. You stole knives from Mr and Mrs Jones’ kitchen and went out shopping on 14th September to Asda and Aldi carefully selecting metal tools to buy which would provide the most effective, dangerous Page 3 of 11 and heaviest shrapnel. You targeted the District Line tube from Wimbledon at rush hour because you were familiar with it and knew it would be crowded with passengers. You cynically placed a pair of trousers over the top of the open bag to make it look innocuous and avoid the sort of suspicion that, e.g. a closed rucksack, might have engendered if abandoned on a tube. You made a viable timer and initiator.
You wanted to save your own skin and were not prepared for shahada (martyrdom). On exiting Putney Bridge station, you set about executing a carefully thought-out escape plan which involved (i) surreptitiously destroying your SD card and disposing of your phone, (ii) taking a complex series of bus, tube and train journeys via Fulham, Earl’s Court, Richmond, Clapham Junction, Brighton, Ashford to Dover, and (iii) wearing 4 tops and 3 bottoms so you could switch your clothes at least four times in 24 hours. You also had £2,300 pounds in cash with you and had deliberately wiped your Mac computer so your webhistory could not investigated.
You could not resist a glance out of the bus as it passed Parsons Green tube station to see the results of your handiwork. And the first thing you did after buying a new phone at Dover was to check the headline news. As Ms Alison Morgan for the Prosecution said, it must have come as a great disappointment to you to see that the IED which you had so carefully created had failed to operate correctly and the carnage which you had hoped to create had not occurred.
You were arrested at 7:52 am on the morning of Saturday 16th September 2018 waiting for the Dover Ferry as a result of the good old-fashioned police work and alertness of officers at Dover who recognised you from the circulated image and approached you and questioned you. It is telling that as soon as they arrested you, you started shaking, praying and complaining that your rucksack should not be placed on the ground because it had the Qur’an in it. You are clearly very religious.
You were not averse to using others to cover your tracks, e.g. having the hydrogen peroxide delivered to the address of a friend, Mr Mahmood, and then telling the police at Dover you were meeting another friend, Mr Farroukh, both of whom were entirely innocent.
Following your arrival in the United Kingdom in 2015, you were content to lead a double life for almost two years. You presented as a very polite, well-behaved and exceptionally bright model student, grateful for the opportunities that were being given to you. You cynically exploited to the full the generosity and naivety of the system and those looking after and helping you. Meanwhile, you harboured dark thoughts.
Those dark thoughts lay dormant for periods, particularly as you began to achieve academic success at Brooklands College, culminating in you being awarded a prize in July 2017 as ‘student of the year’. In a remarkable act of cynicism you used your prize money from the College, a £20 Amazon voucher, to purchase the first ingredient for the IED. One can only imagine the sense of betrayal felt by all those at Barnado’s and Brooklands College whom you duped.
I sentence you on the basis that you did not start actively planning this attack until about a month before 15th September 2017, i.e. in mid-August 2017 when the evidence shows you began researching the ingredients for TATP on the Web.
In my judgment, taking all the above considerations and aggravating and mitigating factors which I have outlined into account, the appropriate minimum term is 34 years with no discount for time spent in custody. 47. So, Ahmed Hassan, for the offence of Attempted Murder of which you have been convicted, I sentence you to Life imprisonment with a minimum term of 34 years.
Finally, Ahmed Hassan, let me say this to you. You will have plenty of time to study the Qur’an in prison in the years to come. You should understand that the Qur’an is a book of peace; Islam is a religion of peace. The Qur’an and Islam forbid anything extreme, including extremism in religion. Islam forbids breaking the ‘law of the land’ where one is living or is a guest. Islam forbids terrorism (hiraba). The Qur’an and the Sunna provide that the crime of perpetrating terror to “cause corruption in the land” is one of the most severe crimes in Islam.1 So it is in the law of the United Kingdom. You have, therefore, received the most severe of sentences under the law of this land. You have violated the Qur’an and Islam by your actions, as well as the law of all civilized people. It is to be hoped that you will come to realise this one day. Please go with the officers.