London – The ringleader of the London Bridge attack had been reported to the anti-terrorist hotline shortly after trying to join Islamic State in Syria, but was still hired to carry out security checks at a Tube station, an inquest heard on Tuesday.
And just months before Khuram Butt, 27, and two accomplices killed eight people and wounded dozens, he was giving lessons on the Koran to children at a primary school.
The details of Butt’s life emerged during the Old Bailey inquest into the atrocity on Tuesday, which heard that he had been born in northern Pakistan and settled in the UK with his family aged eight. He was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK in 2004 after his father died from a heart attack.
The inquest was told that he had been a ‘party animal’ who smoked cannabis, but began showing signs of extremism in 2013. And when Fusilier Lee Rigby was murdered in a terrorist attack that year, Butt described the killing as ‘an eye for an eye’.
After returning from his honeymoon in Pakistan in 2014, Butt began to associate with hate preacher Anjem Choudary and other members of the banned extremist group Al-Muhajiroun. One friend said Butt became ‘energised’ after his meetings with Choudary and was like a ‘lion out of a cage’.
In 2015 Butt bought a one-way ticket to Syria after being inspired by the Bethnal Green schoolgirls who fled Britain to join the so-called caliphate. However, his plans were thwarted when his father-in-law destroyed his passport. A few months later Butt’s brother-in-law reported him on the Met police anti-terrorism hotline after he praised IS when its fighters killed a captured Jordanian pilot by burning him in a cage.
During one rant Butt told a friend, Hamza Raza: ‘You are not supposed to follow the rules of the country you are in. Follow Islamic rules and regulations. Their rules and regulations are not for us – British rules are wrong.’
The fanatic then appeared in a Channel 4 documentary called The Jihadis Next Door, which was screened in January 2016. Despite this he was hired by Transport for London on a salary of £23,000 as a customer services assistant on the London Underground. One of his responsibilities was to conduct security searches at Southwark Tube station. Checks carried out by TfL cleared him for the role because it was apparently unaware of his appearance on the documentary, the Old Bailey was told.
Within weeks he stopped going to work, claiming his ‘company shoes were causing issues’. After being sacked, he was hired by the Ad-Deen primary school in Ilford to teach children about the Koran for two hours a day. The school has since closed.
The court also heard that Butt was the subject of a counter-terrorism investigation between 2015 and 2017, but he was not charged with any offence. His house was raided by police in 2016 and he was arrested on suspicion of fraud, but again no charges were brought against him.
It left Butt free to kill eight people and injure 48 others along with accomplices Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, on June 3, 2017, before being shot dead by police. The inquest continues.