Westminster attack: Copycat terrorist Salih Khater jailed for life

14 October 2019, 13:28 | Updated: 14 October 2019, 22:03

An ex-asylum seeker who crashed into cyclists and police outside parliament to replicate previous terror attacks in London has been jailed for life.

Salih Khater drove his Ford Fiesta into riders and a pedestrian who had stopped at a red light in Parliament Square, before careering into a security lane and ploughing into barriers as two officers jumped out of the way.

The incident on 14 August last year brought back painful memories of attacks in Westminster in 2017, and Khater was said to have deliberately copied other terrorists.

After being found guilty of two counts of attempted murder at the Old Bailey, the judge told him his "undoubted intention was to kill as many people as possible and by doing so spread fear and terror".

Mrs Justice McGowan described him as a "dangerous" individual, adding: "You replicated the acts of others who undoubtedly have acted with terrorist motives. You deliberately copied those others."

She said: "It was an attack on strangers and police officers at the seat of democracy in this country.

"You are dangerous in that you present a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public in the future. Even acting alone, you acted for a terrorist purpose. All the evidence is consistent with that conclusion."

The court had heard how Khater, 30, was granted asylum in Britain in 2010 after claiming he had been tortured in his home country of Sudan.

He was said to have been "paranoid" of the British authorities in the months before his attack, and on 24 May last year emailed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to express concern about an "event" involving the intelligence services.

The day before the attack, which came after he had failed accountancy exams at the University of Coventry, he had unsuccessfully applied for a fast-track UK passport.

He was also struggling to find work as a security guard, the court heard.

Khater left Birmingham just before 10pm on 13 August last year, arriving in London after midnight.

He was seen on CCTV arriving in Parliament Square just before 1am and driving around Westminster, checking the layout for the attack that would come around five hours later.

He parked and rested for four-and-a-half hours in Windmill Street in Soho before returning to Parliament Square, and went on to do four laps of the square before launching the rush-hour attack.

Pedestrian Paul Brown was among those injured, struck by the silver Ford Fiesta as he crossed the road, causing him bruises and grazes.

Krystof Tokarski and Anya Breen were cycling to work and waiting at traffic lights - Khater knocked them down, with the former suffering grazes and a broken little finger.

Ms Breen was thrown over the bonnet and fractured her collar bone, while three people were trapped under their bikes, with some screaming in pain.

Khater then made a sharp turn into a slip road at speeds of 32mph, forcing officers Darren Shotton and Simon Short to dive out of the way.

Khater was removed from his car by armed police after crashing.

He confirmed he was acting alone but failed to explain himself, and mitigation lawyer Peter Carter QC told the court the defendant remained an "enigma".

Khater later claimed he had come to London to find the Sudanese embassy to get a visa, and panicked when he got lost around the Westminster area.

The jury rejected his explanation and found him guilty of two charges of attempted murder in July.

He was jailed for life with a minimum term of 15 years.