Teenager jailed over ISIS plot to murder soldiers or police officers on UK streets

2 June 2023, 13:13 | Updated: 2 June 2023, 13:52

Matthew King has been jailed for a minimum term of six years
Matthew King has been jailed for a minimum term of six years. Picture: Metropolitan Police

By Fraser Knight

A self-radicalised teenager from Essex has been jailed for a minimum term of six years in prison for plotting acts of terrorism, including against police officers in east London.

Matthew King, 19, appeared at the Old Bailey this morning where he was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of six years after pleading guilty to preparing acts of terrorism.

Police began investigating concerns around King’s behaviour in April 2022 after several members of the public had raised the alarm at his Islamist views becoming increasingly extreme.

Officers arrested him a month later, saying they believed he was planning to carry out an attack within hours.

They’d found evidence of hostile reconnaissance videos King had filmed around Stratford train station, police station and at the barracks of the 7th Battalion Rifles, in east London.

His family were not in court, as King’s defence lawyer said previous hearings have been extremely difficult for them.

Matthew King has been jailed for a minimum of six years
Matthew King has been jailed for a minimum of six years. Picture: Metropolitan Police

The teenager, who converted to Islam before self-radicalising during the Covid pandemic, had also searched online for ‘ISIS knife tactical training video’ and changed his WhatsApp status to ‘Kill non-Muslims wherever you see them’.

Commander Dominic Murphy, who leads the counter-terrorism command at the Metropolitan Police told LBC: “He had taken committed steps to making plans to target police officers and members of the military.

“He’d also made reference to attacking the public and we felt the risk was so high we needed to act. I genuinely believe his plan was imminent, so we needed to disrupt him.

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King had filmed videos scoping out potential targets
King had filmed videos scoping out potential targets. Picture: Metropolitan Police

Commander Murphy added: “The speed of King starting his journey of radicalisation to being almost ready to carry out an attack is concerning and shows the challenge we have in having to respond to these threats.”

Matthew King left education with no qualifications and was living in Essex with his mum and sisters.

He’d been kicked out of school at one point and moved into a pupil referral unit after a fight and had moved around schools quite a bit.

He’s said to have been taking his conversion to Islam seriously. He’d started learning Arabic and attending mosques.

He was seen on CCTV and admitted preparing for acts of terrorism
He was seen on CCTV and admitted preparing for acts of terrorism. Picture: Metropolitan Police

His family looked at it as a positive step at first, but then grew increasingly concerned as his views became more extreme.

King was forced to move around several mosques in east London after worshippers rejected his increasingly radical views which he shared openly.

Officers say King was in regular contact with a female friend on Snapchat and in conversations with her had revealed plans to travel to Syria, to become a martyr and expressed a desire to torture and kill an American or British soldier.

He’d also discussed plans to indiscriminately attack members of the public.

A backpack was recovered after his arrest which was packed with a balaclava and ISIS flag, as well as hunting goggles, gloves and a jacket King had bought from an Army surplus store.

He’d also searched online for hunting knives, uploading his passport as proof of age – a step counter-terrorism police say was ‘extremely helpful’ to their investigation.

Several members of the public are said to have raised concerns with the police, including through the counter-terrorism hotline.

And it was this that Commander Murphy said was key to them stepping in before an attack was carried out.

He told LBC: “This is one of the best examples recently where the public is the reason we started this investigation. We had multiple calls, from people who either had contact with him or knew him. We wouldn’t have started the investigation when we did without that.”

King’s defence said in mitigation that within days of being jailed, he had expressed a willingness to change his views and has since said he no longer supports ISIS.

Judge Mark Lucraft ruled: “In my judgement you are someone who poses a risk to members of the public and it’s unclear when that will no longer be the case.”

Timeline of Matthew King's movements

  • Covid lockdown – Matthew King begins to self-radicalise after converting to Islam and starting to learn Arabic.
  • December 2021 – King registers for an account on Knife Warehouse, uploading his passport as proof of age.
  • 22 March 2022 – King uploads a rap video referring to his ‘bros locked up in Belmarsh’ referring to some of the country’s most high-profile convicted terrorists.
  • 29 March 2022 – King films uniformed officers at Stratford train station.
  • April 2022 – King tells a female friend on Snapchat that he has plans to travel to Syria and has a desire to torture and kill an American or British soldier.
  • 9 April 2022 – King films the entrance to Stratford police station and attaches audio to it threatening violence.
  • 10 May 2022 – King returns to Stratford train station to film uniformed officers.
  • 13 May 2022 – King films police officers outside Stratford Magistrates’ Court which he posts to Snapchat with the caption ‘target acquired’.
  • 17 May 2022 – King films a number of clips at the 7th Battalion Rifles barracks in east London.
  • 18 May 2022 – King is using his computer to search for high-profile terrorists, including the Manchester Arena bomber Salman Abedi. Hours later, he was arrested.