Isis supporter plotted to kill 100 people in Oxford Street terror attack while going through Prevent deradicalisation programme

Former Royal Mail worker scouted potential targets in London on same day as meeting anti-extremism officers, court hears

Chris Baynes
Thursday 03 January 2019 21:08
Lewis Ludlow plotted to kill 100 people in a van attack in Oxford Street, London
Lewis Ludlow plotted to kill 100 people in a van attack in Oxford Street, London

A Muslim convert who swore allegiance to Isis planned to kill 100 people in a terror attack in London while taking part in a deradicalisation programme, a court has heard.

Lewis Ludlow of Rochester, Kent, scouted potential sites for an attack on the same day as meeting with Prevent officers, London's Old Bailey was told.

The former Royal Mail worker said he was filled with “animosity and hatred” for the British public, carried out reconnaissance of targets around the capital, taking photographs of Oxford Street and Madame Tussauds, the court heard.

The 27-year-old had seemingly engaged with the Prevent deradicalisation scheme, taking part in 16 meetings and a phone call with officers over six months before his arrest last April.

Ludlow planned to kill up to 100 people in a “ram attack” in Oxford Street, a busy shopping district, but was stopped by police at Heathrow Airport in February 2018 as he attempted to board a flight to the Philippines.

The defendant, who called himself “The Eagle” and “The Ghost”, had bought a phone under a false name and wrote down his attack plans, which were later found ripped up in a bin.

He pleaded guilty last year to plotting an attack in the UK and funding Isis in the Philippines.

At a sentencing hearing, prosecutor Mark Heywood set out Ludlow’s past association with extremists in Britain and abroad.

Mr Heywood said the Prevent programme had attempted to engage with Ludlow since November 2008, when his college had raised concern about his religious beliefs and carrying a knife.

In 2010, Ludlow attended a demonstration led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) group. He was pictured with the convicted terrorist Trevor Brooks and had secret communication with British jihadi Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria.

In June 2015, he discussed planning an attack with Hussain and mentioned his job at Royal Mail.

He wrote: “At my job at a Royal Mail warehouse we had a book that mentions how staff look out for suspicious items like bombs. I’m thinking should I find this info out more as Royal Mail rarely check items. It is perfect to send something lethal through.”

Hussain told him it was a “good idea” and Ludlow promised to “look into it”.

Later that year he was arrested and Isis material was recovered from Ludlow’s phone, but no further action was taken.

Ludlow had previously cut off contact with Prevent two years but resumed meetings with officers in November 2017, while keeping his true feelings under wraps.

In January 2018, he bought a ticket to fly to the Philippines on 3 February but was stopped at the airport and had his passport seized.

In March, having set up a PayPal account and an Antique Collections Facebook site, he sent money to an alleged extremist called Abu Yaqeen in an area of the Philippines with a significant Isis presence.

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Police went on to recover torn-up scraps of paper from Ludlow’s bin detailing potential attack sites in Britain. He planned to mount the pavement in a van on Oxford Street, where he noted the lack of safety barriers.

Ludlow wrote: “Wolf should either use a ram attack or use ... on the truck to maximise death ... it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack. It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack.”

Mr Heywood said there was evidence the defendant wanted to recruit a second attacker as he did not have a driver’s licence and was “scared” of crashing.

On 13 April last year, Ludlow’s mobile phone was retrieved from a storm drain and found to have videos of the defendant swearing allegiance to Isis and evidence of “hostile reconnaissance”.

In one of the videos, the hooded defendant said: “I, the Eagle, have pledged allegiance to Dawlatul Islam and also, this is a little message to you people, there is no love between us, there is nothing between us except animosity and hatred.”

In mitigation, Rebecca Trowler said autistic Ludlow was directed by the extremist in the Philippines and his plans were “embryonic”.

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Giving evidence, Ludlow, who converted to Islam at 16, told how he dropped out of school after he was bullied for nine years.

He said: “I was a loner. I was on my own and it was sad. People would say they found me too strange. It was really depressing. I felt everyone hated me and I thought I would be better off dead.”

Describing feelings of anxiety, he said: “Physically I feel my heart beating rapidly, adrenaline rushing. Mentally, the things that come into my head are death and disturbing images to do with graves, worms, decomposition.”

Ludlow said he found ALM online and was invited to demonstrations.

At first it was “friendly” and he was seen as “funny” but after two years things turned sour and he was suspected of being a spy, he said.

The sentencing hearing is due to last for up to three days before Judge Nicholas Hilliard.

Press Association contributed to this report