An unrepentant Ukrainian right-wing extremist has admitted murdering an elderly Muslim man and a series of bomb attacks on mosques to try to spark a race war in Britain.
Pavlo Lapshyn, a talented and highly intelligent engineer, stabbed his 82-year-old victim three times in the back just five days after he stepped off a plane to start a prestigious placement at a hi-tech software design firm in Birmingham.
Mohammed Saleem was attacked as he was walking from prayers but police appeals - with little forensic evidence, no witnesses and only grainy CCTV footage - meant that detectives had little to go on until Lapshyn began his bombing campaign nearly two months later.
Lapshyn, 25, from the industrial city of Dnipropetrovsk, was a self-radicalised extremist inspired by Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, whose picture he posted online on the night of his first bomb attack on a mosque in Walsall, West Midlands on 21 June.
The attacks escalated over the next three weeks with the most lethal device packed with hundreds of nails designed to maim people gathering in the car park of Tipton Mosque for Friday prayers. Carnage was only avoided because the time for prayers advertised on the mosque's website was delayed by an hour because it was Ramadan.
"Had it been full, the consequences would have been unimaginable," said Det Supt Shaun Edwards, who headed the investigation that finally caught Lapshyn.
At the Old Bailey yesterday, Lapshyn admitted the murder and the bombings in what were the most significant far-right attacks launched in Britain since neo-Nazi David Copeland's 13 day bombing campaign in 1999. Copeland was jailed for life for two bombings targeting ethnic minorities in London before detonating a nail bomb in Soho targeting gay people at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999, killing three people and injuring more than 100 people.
Police believe Lapshyn was a 'lone wolf' and even the fellow intern who was sharing his flat at Delcam plc on a Birmingham industrial estate, had no idea what he was doing despite the chemicals and timing devices stashed around their accommodation.
Lapshyn's arrest six days after the third attack foiled his plans for a continuing campaign of violence during the fevered period just weeks after the killing of soldier Lee Rigby outside Woolwich barracks.
Officers found three mobile phones in his flat that were specially adapted to work as timers to carry out further attacks. "A series of explosions may achieve more," he told detectives during his interviews. "I have a racial hatred so I have a racial motivation."
Lapshyn was arrested by police as tensions were rising before an English Defence League rally in the city and the "calm, collected and committed" racist immediately confessed to what he had done.
Lapshyn even told interviewers about another small device that had exploded outside a mosque that police had not even known about.
In his disclosures to police, Lapshyn told police that his reason for carrying out the attacks was "racism" and added: "I would like to increase racial conflict."
British police are still investigating whether he had a violent history in his own country after he was believed to have been arrested by Ukrainian police in 2010 after an explosion in his flat during bomb-making experiments.
Analysis of his computer revealed he had researched white supremacist movements and documents found on his computer included the Turner Diaries, a virulently right wing novel by neo Nazi William Luther Pierce from the 1970s. It portrays the overthrow of the US government and wider race war.
He had known for nearly two years that he was travelling to Britain for the prestigious placement at Delcam after securing a third place in a competition for his Phd work on machine building at the National Metallurgical Academy of Ukraine.
An unsmiling Lapshyn was pictured at an awards ceremony at the official residence of the former British ambassador to Ukraine, Leigh Turner. A later examination of his computer indicated that he had planning his campaign before he arrived in the country.
Just five days later, Mr Saleem, a father-of-seven who walked with a stick, was apparently randomly selected and had been "in the wrong place at the wrong time," said Det Supt Edwards.
He was found in a pool of blood just a few yards from his home on April 29. "It was an act of terrorism because he was killed for his faith," said his daughter Shazia Khan.
The 25-year-old detonated the first of three home-made bombs hidden inside a "Great White Shark" children's lunchbox outside Walsall Mosque. He was caught on CCTV carrying the box to plant by iron gates outside the main complex before walking away empty-handed.
Police questioned a man over the attack and Lapshyn later claimed to have carried out a second bombing a week later close to Wolverhampton mosque because they arrested the wrong man.
The third was the most devastating with inch-long nails found embedded in a fence on the other side of the road from the mosque. Even though Lapshyn had been caught on CCTV before the murder and after the bomb attacks, the public response had been muted because he had spent so little time in the country and rarely been spotted in public.
Book of hate: Lapshyn’s inspiration
Pavlo Lapshyn’s arrival in Britain triggered the start of a series of extremist postings that revealed his belief in white racial superiority.
Documents found on his computer included “The Turner Diaries”, a virulently right-wing novel by neo-Nazi William Luther Pierce from the 1970s. The book branded by activists as the ‘bible of the racist right’ portrays the overthrow of the US government and wider race war.
The book was also the inspiration for the home-grown neo-Nazi David Copeland, who was jailed for two bombings targeting ethnic minorities in London before detonating a nail bomb in Soho targeting gay people at the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho in 1999, leaving three people dead.
After arriving in Britain, Lapshyn posted a poem of an imprisoned Russian neo-Nazi, a picture of Timothy McVeigh and a song by a German white supremacist group, said Anton Shekhovtsov, a Ukrainian academic investigating the far-right in Ukraine based at University College London.
“There were a lot of conspiracy theories that he had been set up and some British person committed the crime. There was a very strong sense of denial in Ukraine,” said Mr Shekhovtsov.Reuse content