Islamic State supporter admits plotting to bomb St Paul's Cathedral

21 February 2020, 22:45

File photo: Safiyya Amira Shaikh plotted to bomb St Paul's Cathedral
File photo: Safiyya Amira Shaikh plotted to bomb St Paul's Cathedral. Picture: PA

By Megan White

An Islamic State supporter has pleaded guilty to plotting to bomb St Paul's Cathedral.

Safiyya Amira Shaikh, who also plotted to plant an explosive at a hotel in London, admitted preparing terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications at the Old Bailey on Friday.

The 36-year-old from Hayes, Middlesex, will be sentenced on May 11.

The charge states that Shaikh made contact with someone who could prepare explosives and went on a reconnaissance trip to scope out the historic site and a hotel as locations to plant bombs.

Safiyya Amira Shaikh pleaded guilty on Friday
Safiyya Amira Shaikh pleaded guilty on Friday. Picture: Metropolitan Police

The court heard how she had carried out research before settling on her murderous plan between between August and October last year.

She made contact with someone she believed could help make explosives online and provided two bags, one for each bomb.

Shaikh travelled to central London and stayed at a hotel as part of her reconnaissance.

She scoped out St Paul's security and looked for the "best place" to plant a second explosive device, the court heard.

She also prepared the words of a pledge of allegiance to IS, also known as Isis or Daesh.

Shaikh also shared terrorist documents via groups using the Telegram messaging app over the same period.

The defendant, who wore a black robe, spoke quietly as she entered her guilty pleas before Mr Justice Sweeney.

The facts were not opened in court, but according to a prosecution case summary, Shaikh had stated her main aim was to kill as many people as possible in a suicide attack on St Paul's.

She only confided her plan to two people, the online explosives expert and his wife who she handed her bags to, unaware that they were undercover officers.

The British defendant was born Michelle Ramsden to a non-Muslim family and converted to Islam in 2007.

She began to follow extremists online and by 2015 had become radicalised, the prosecution alleged.

In encrypted chat with an undercover officer last August, the defendant said that she would "rather die young and get to Jannah (paradise) quickest way possible".

She also stated: "I always knows (sic) I wanted to do something big....killing one kafir (infidel) is not enough for me."

Shaikh expressed a desire to target a church or somewhere "historical" on a day like Christmas or Easter to "kill more", according to the case summary.

In September last year, she revealed her plan to stay in a hotel near St Paul's then check out the cathedral and "take photos like a tourist".

On September 24 last year, she met the fake explosive expert's wife in Uxbridge to hand over her bags.

Then on October 13, the female undercover officer cancelled a second meeting and police forced their way into Shaikh's flat to arrest her.

In police interview, the defendant, who claimed benefits, admitted posting extremist material and the plot, although she said she may not have gone through with it.