Bomb plot suspect 'bought shop's entire stock of hydrogen peroxide'

Lee Glendinning
Friday 19 January 2007 01:00 GMT

One of the men accused of plotting the failed London bombings purchased hundreds of bottles of hydrogen peroxide at its strongest available concentration from a hairdressing suppliers using a discount card, a court heard yesterday.

Manfo Kwaku Asiedu ordered hundreds of litres of liquid, claiming it was for stripping paint, Woolwich Crown Court was told.

In the space of less than two months he visited a branch of Sally's Hair and Beauty Supplies in London at least four times, on each occasion purchasing virtually all the stock of the chemical, it has been alleged.

Mr Asiedu, 33, is one of six men accused of plotting to carry out a series of suicide bombings on the London transport system on July 21 2005, two weeks after the July 7 bombings which killed 52 people. The men are accused of using an explosive mixture of hydrogen peroxide and chapatti flour in homemade rucksack bombs and allegedly purchased more than 400 litres of peroxide in the weeks before the attempted attack.

Mr Asiedu and his co-defendants, Muktar Said Ibrahim, 28; Ramzi Mohammed, 25; Yassin Omar, 26; Hussain Osman, 28; and Adel Yahya, 24, all deny charges of conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause explosions likely to endanger life.

Sandra Sealey, the manager of Sally's store in Finchley, north London, told the trial that Mr Asiedu began buying peroxide in early May of that year, before buying more and more over the ensuing weeks.

Ms Sealey said the normal retail price to the public of a one-litre bottle of hydrogen peroxide - used by hairdressers to bleach hair - was £2.98. However, she said Asiedu had used a "Sally's Card" to obtain the trade discount of more than two thirds.

The first time Mr Asiedu came to the store was on 9 May 2005, when he bought 14 bottles of peroxide, Ms Sealey told the court. He also asked whether it was possible to get any more, giving no indication about his intentions.

A young Asian woman who accompanied him produced a "Sally's Card" and she gave them the trade discount which reduced the price per litre from £2.98 to 84p. The following Sunday, Ms Sealey said she ordered a further 18 bottles - another six for the store and 12 for Mr Asiedu. He returned on 19 May and again bought all the store's stock, ordering another 42 litres, she said. The stock had to be ordered from the chain's distributors in Blackburn, Lancashire. On 1 June, he picked up the order, paying in cash and another 42 bottles were ordered.

When Mr Asiedu returned to the store on 21 June, he was with a "very tall" African man, who Ms Sealey later thought she recognised when pictures of the July 21 bomb suspects were published in the press.

The men picked up the order, paying cash, although because of an error there was less than Mr Asiedu wanted, she said. He placed another order, this time for 120 litres of hydrogen peroxide, the court was told. "I think I asked him what it was for and he said it was for 'stripping paint'," Ms Sealey said. "I looked at Orlando [her colleague] and we kind of questioned it between us."

A torn-up receipt from one of the purchases was later found at a flat in Curtis House, New Southgate, north London - the alleged "bomb factory" where Mr Omar lived, the court heard.

Orlando Baghaloo, who also worked at Sally's, told the court that Mr Asiedu bought 120 litres of hydrogen peroxide on June 30 and paid for it in cash. "Eighteen per cent hydrogen peroxide is not a regular seller," he said. "It's quite concentrated. We usually only sell three or four bottles a month."

The court also heard that another of the accused, Mr Omar, had studied chemistry at college. Ann Obatomi, Mr Omar's chemistry teacher at Enfield College, said the syllabus of the GNVQ intermediate course he took between 1998 and 1999, included rates of reaction and "looking at the effects of temperature, the use of catalysts, to increase the rate of reaction".

After the alleged attempted attacks in July 2005, notes from an intermediate chemistry course were found at Mr Omar's home. They included a description of the components of fertiliser and the ionic bonding of magnesium oxide, and made references to other substances including silver nitrate and barium chloride. "In the name of Allah" was also written on one of the pages, the court heard.

Mr Omar took four hours of chemistry a week but, at the end of the academic year, in summer 1999, his attendance tailed off and he failed the course.

The trial continues.

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