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Ilford hate preacher Anjem Choudary 'energised' Barking London Bridge terrorist, inquest hears

PUBLISHED: 16:13 28 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:16 28 May 2019

Evidence from the London Bridge terror attack inquest. The van used in the incident. Picture: Met Police

Evidence from the London Bridge terror attack inquest. The van used in the incident. Picture: Met Police

Met Police

Ilford hate preacher Anjem Choudary "energised" the ring leader of the London Bridge terrorist attack, an inquest heard.

Evidence from the London Bridge terror attack inquest. Picture: Met PoliceEvidence from the London Bridge terror attack inquest. Picture: Met Police

According to a friend, Khuram Butt, 27, of Barking was like a "lion out of a cage" in the company of the al-Muhajiroun leader in the months leading up to the terrorist incident on June 3, 2017.

The Old Bailey was told how Butt turned from an "earnest and hard-working" schoolboy to an extremist who "brought shame" on his family by appearing on television documentary The Jihadi Next Door.

His decent into radicalisation even caused a family member to report his extremist views to an anti-terrorism hotline two years before he killed eight people and injured 48 more in a van and knife attack with Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22.

It wasn't the first time Butt had manages to slip through the net and in 2016 he was employed by London Underground as a customer service assistant on a salary of £23,000.

The inquest was told background checks did not flag up Butt's involvement with the Channel 4 documentary.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the coroner, asked if the role gave Butt access to underground stations in a "security capacity".

Acting Det Ch Insp Wayne Jolley, who investigated the attacker's background, replied: "Yes it did."

While on sick leave from the transport job, claiming his feet were causing him problems, he met Redouane while training at the Ummah Fitness Centre in Ilford.

He also befriended Zaghba through Sunday afternoon swimming sessions and they both volunteered at Ad-Deen Primary School, where the partner of the gym's owner worked.

Headteacher Sophie Rahman allowed Butt to lead Quran lessons to primary school children alone for two hours, up to three times a week.

He taught the pupils about jihad and said "the worst creatures are the Kuffar (non-believers)".

Ms Rahman employed him without checking his references and was later banned from the classroom for life by the Teaching Regulation Agency.

The school was shut down and Rahman was banned for life from the classroom for employing Butt, who had already shown signs of extremism in The Jihadi Next Door.

The show depicted Butt as a willing participant who "condemned the UK government", particularly over its actions in Iraq and Syria, said Mr Hough QC.

In a clip aired in court but not included in the programme, Butt ranted: "The government is extreme, they have killed the most, strategically...

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"When the war comes here and the airplanes come let's see if you agree with the air strikes."

Butt was born in Pakistan in 1990 and came to Britain on a visitor's visa with his family at the age of eight.

In 2004, following the death of his father from a heart attack, he was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

He went to schools in Forest Gate and Stratford in Newham, gaining 11 GCSEs.

He was described by one teacher as "enthusiastic, earnest and hard working".

A friend told police Butt liked playing football, supported Arsenal and was into reggae music.

In his early 20s, he was a "normal guy, smoking tobacco and cannabis", according to the friend.

Butt's sister Haleema Butt described him in 2012 as being a "party animal".

But around 2013, he began showing signs of extremism, telling a colleague that the death of Fusilier Lee Rigby in a terror attack was "an eye for an eye", the inquest heard.

Before joining the London Underground, he had held various jobs at a domestic refuge, Top Shop, a Pizza restaurant and at a removal company.

He married Zahrah Rehman in December 2013 and they went on to have two children - his daughter was born just a month before the terror attack.

After the wedding, his father-in-law, Abdul Rehman-Butt, became "concerned" that Butt wanted to go to Syria, the inquest heard.

In early 2015, Butt had bought a ticket to travel and his family threatened to disown him and report him to the police.

His wife said they spoke about Isis but her husband did not directly say he wanted to go to the country.

In September 2015, his brother-in-law Usman Darr reported Butt to the anti-terrorist hotline after he challenged him on his views on an IS execution of a pilot who was burned to death in a cage.

Between 2015 and 2017, Butt was the subject of a counter terrorism investigation and he was arrested on suspicion of fraud in 2016.

In July 2016, he was arrested over a scuffle with a Quilliam counter terrorism think-tank researcher at an Ilford park - but no charges were brought.

The inquest continues.

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