Hussain's Story: Family struggle to understand why their gentle boy became a bomber

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The Independent Online

Following the first interviews with any of the families of the 7 July bombers, The Independent has pieced together a portrait of the life and last-known movements of the youngest bomber, Hasib Hussain. It provides an insight into how his radicalisation went utterly undetected by those closest to him and how his bewildered family's frenetic attempt to find clues to his whereabouts in the hours after the bombings took his brother on an early-hours dash to London and to the door of the so-called bomb factory in Leeds.

If anything, the Hussains would have considered Hasib's older brother, Imran, a more likely confidant of the more senior Leeds bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shahzad Tanweer. Imran knew Khan as "Sid" and counted him as a very close friend. He also often played cricket with Shahzad - whom he met at the Tanweer family's chip shop in the 1980s - in Beeston Park, near the Hussains' home in the Holbeck district of Leeds.

The last cricket game between Imran and Tanweer took place on the evening on 6 July, hours before he set out with Hussain for London. "How could he do that when he knew what he was about to carry out?" said a family source, left bewildered and constantly close to tears.

At 11am on the morning after that cricket match, the Hussains were informed of the bombings in a telephone call from a daughter. Imran apparently took the call and was struck by the immediate thought that his brother might be injured. At 10pm that night, Mrs Hussain reported her son missing to the casualty bureau.

By the early hours of Saturday there was still no sign of Hasib and at 4am Imran set off with some cousins in his old Vauxhall Astra to find them. The group toured several hospitals before returning north.

Hussain's father, Mohammed, remains convinced that if his wife had not made the call to the casualty bureau the focus of the bombing investigation would not have shifted to Leeds. "I like to think that we may have helped in some way," said a family source. "Before we called, the police had no idea Hasib was there."

Her call coincided with two pieces of evidence found in the wreckage of the bombs - a fragment of Hussain's credit card and a remnant of Tanweer's membership card for the same Northern snooker club where the Hussains played. Hussain's provisional driving licence was also found on the bus.

As early as Saturday 9 July - three days before the Leeds police raids - detectives in West Yorkshire were being informed by the Metropolitan Police that Leeds might be home to a number of the bombers.

For around 24 hours, the force placed the Hussain house - 7 Colenso Mount - under surveillance. By Sunday, when Hussain had not appeared, a family liaison officer was sent in on a fishing expedition, knowing that she may well be visiting the bomber's parents. Even then, three days on, Mr and Mrs Hussain had no inkling of their son's involvement. Imran Hussain missed much of the meeting with the officer but sources suggest that as she was about to leave he took her to one side and said: "I think Hasib may be the bomber."

By then, Imran had combed his brother's computer and papers in his room. He found evidence to suggest a property at 18 Alexandra Grove, in Burley, Leeds, may be linked. Before police arrived to seal the property, he had marched up to the front door and knocked but got no answer. Eventually, an army bomb squad carried out a controlled explosion just to get in. "It turned out to be a bomb factory. I think that might have been a lucky escape," said a family source.

Imran also began examining a mobile telephone which his brother had left behind. Few numbers were stored in the directory but the name of the King's Cross bomber Germaine "Jamal" Lindsay, 19, was among them. Imran Hussain also called the stored number of a surgeon, Dr Shakir Al Ani, 57, who had the keys for the Alexandra Grove flat.

As he carried out his investigations, a bewildered Imran was forced to come to terms with a sudden radicalisation of which his brother had shown no sign.

In the weeks since the bombings, Hasib Hussain has been cast as a social misfit and drop-out whose overt and sudden radicalisation may have provided an early warning sign. Yet family sources reveal that he was a promising academic about to head for university and an arranged marriage. Their testimony also suggests it was highly improbable that he was exposed to radical madrassas - Islamic schools - in Pakistan, as his fellow bombers were.

He had won a place on a business studies degree course at Leeds University, starting in September. An arranged marriage to a college student in Pakistan was also in the pipeline. The boy's only visit to Pakistan since he was eight months old was a trip to the outskirts of Islamabad for his brother Imran's wedding three years ago. He stayed for four weeks before returning ahead of his brother, to get back to secondary school in Leeds. "There was absolutely no sign of him becoming devoutly religious. He wore jeans and trainers, just like me," said one family member.

Hussain's air of normality led his family to think little of his decision to leave Leeds for London on 6 July. "I'll be back on Thursday," he told them. By 7.48am on 7 July, he was boarding the Luton-King's Cross service. Within a few hours, his bomb destroyed the No 30 bus in Tavistock Square, killing him and 13 others.

It would have come as no surprise to Hussain that his father wanted him back in school soon after the Islamabad trip. Mohammed Hussain, a former foundry supervisor, holds much store in living by the rules. He frowns on smoking, for instance, and tells Imran's wife's Pakistani family that he would not have allowed the marriage to take place, were his son a smoker. His mantra to both sons was that they must "work very hard" to get well qualified before the aged of 25. Then they might be able to earn good money.

Mohammed and his wife Maniza - to whom Hasib was always closest - left Pakistan for the Holbeck district of Leeds 30 years ago. Hasib, who was born on 16 September 1986, was a gentle boy. "If a fly came into the house, he would catch it and take it outside. If there was a caterpillar in the garden, he would make sure it was safe. I can only imagine that he was brainwashed into doing this. I keep thinking that this must be some kind of mistake. That it must have been someone else who did this. If I am wrong, [he] will face his reward in the next life."

Hasib was not as gregarious as Imran, 25, but certainly had brains. He picked up GCSEs in English, literature, mathematics, science, design technology and Urdu, as well as a GNVQ in business studies. He was the subject of minor disciplinary discussions with his teachers - relating to graffiti and not delivering homework on time, the school says.

He was no match at cricket for his brother Imran - who was a Yorkshire under-14 player - and he was evidently "hopeless" at football. But the brothers regularly attended gyms together in nearby Beeston, where they boxed. Hasib was fond of attaching himself to cardiograph machines for treadmill work. The two also played snooker at a number of Leeds venues, including the Northern Club on Kirkstall Road.

The teenager also loved a mountain bike he bought from a friend, which now gathers dust in the cellar of the family home. He would pedal across Leeds to Roundhay Park and back. He also jogged the streets around the family home and was a keen swimmer. He had shed several stones in recent months, after becoming quite chubby, though his family did not read it as a sign of profound change.

It is gradually dawning on the Hussains that the radicalised young bombers met at the family home. Mr Hussain recalls seeing Tanweer's distinctive maroon Mercedes outside. Khan would sit in the Hussains' front room for hours with Imran and Hasib, yet never mentioned politics in the family's presence.

The Hussains have not contacted the Tanweers, but a family member saw a brother of Khan's in Beeston. "Perhaps [Khan] was doing all that brainwashing and not uttering a word about it. That was a big betrayal," said a family source.