Martyrs Avenue: is this the British home of suicide bomber behind Syria attack?

Notorious UK address is linked to extremist who blew himself up in Aleppo. Paul Gallagher reports

When counter terrorism officers in the West Sussex town of Crawley were sent to a house on Martyrs Avenue to investigate whether it had been the home of a suicide bomber who killed himself in Syria, they could have been forgiven for wondering if the address they had been given was a joke.

The address, thought to be linked to a man named last night as Abdul Waheed Majid, was correct. Only after several hours inspecting the home in the Langley Green area did the officers emerge, leaving a single policeman in an unmarked car by the side of the property on Wednesday night, its curtains drawn.

Mr Majid, known to friends as Waheed but said to have been known by the alias Abu Suleiman al-Britani in Syria, left Britain six months ago. He told his family he was going on a humanitarian mission to the war-torn country. It is now suspected that the 41-year-old carried out a suicide bombing in a truck in the Syrian city of Aleppo last Thursday – though officers have so far refused to confirm his identity due to a lack of DNA evidence – after joining the al-Qai’da-linked rebel group, the al-Nusra Front.

Neighbours spoke of their shock at witnessing police descend on the end-of-terrace property. The house has previous, however. Bizarrely, it once belonged to the child killer Roy Whiting, who murdered eight-year-old Sarah Payne in 2000.

One neighbour, Nina Bateman, told the Argus newspaper that Majid, 41, was “a pleasant chap”. “When I became very ill, he was always willing to help, and he would do my neighbour’s hedges,” she said.

“I’m beginning to wonder whether it’s something to do with that house. He was the next person to move in after Roy Whiting’s dad moved out... you would never have a bad word to say about him – he was just a pleasant chap.”

Another neighbour said on Wednesday night that he thought Majid had a wife and teenage son.

Arif Syed, a community leader in Crawley, said Majeed would phone his family or contact them on Skype every three days while he was away, but communication was lost with him about seven days ago.

Mr Syed, 59, said he still hoped to learn that Majeed was not behind the Aleppo attack. “We have got our hopes high. We are praying that he will walk through the door,” he said. “It’s a good possibility that he’s still alive and well, and is just not communicating. We live with this hope until the authorities confirm, or we get eye-witnesses that say it was him.”

His uncle, Mohammad Jamil, 65, said Majeed had never shown any sign of extremism. “If the family knew about this, we wouldn’t have let him go,” he said. Mr Jamil said the family had no reason to believe that Majeed was anywhere other than at refugee camps giving aid.

Describing his nephew as a “family man”, he said: “He spent a lot of time with his wife and kids and he has always been employed, and a well-liked person.” The emotions of Majeed’s wife have fluctuated since reports suggested her husband might be behind the suicide bombing, according to Mr Syed. He said: “When people believed it was him, she went through a period of bereavement. When we gave her the information that the agencies could not confirm, she was really delighted, but she is in a totally confused state.”

Majeed left for what was said to be his first humanitarian mission to Syria in August, and had not indicated when he would return to Britain.

Mr Syed added that he missed two opportunities to return, however. “He enjoyed it so much and he extended his period of stay,” he said.

“The family has been in constant touch with him for several weeks, and he has been sending photographs. He has mostly been working with a charity on the refugee camps and distributing aid.

“We had communication until about seven days ago. He had said he was going to another camp and there might be switch-off with the communication. He said ‘If I don’t contact you for a few days, don’t worry about it, I will be in touch again’. That’s the last communication we had.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks