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London bridge attacker's family took away his passport because of Syria travel fears, widow says

'Nobody knows this but I went to the bridge and laid flowers for the victims’ families,' Zahrah Rehman tells inquest

Adam Forrest
Thursday 06 June 2019 23:21 BST
Footage released of London Bridge victim who used skateboard to fight terrorist

The ringleader of the London Bridge terror attack has his passport taken away by his family because they feared he would take his family to Syria, his widow has said.

Khuram Butt had bought flights to Turkey when they removed the documents because they suspected he was planning to join Isis, Zahrah Rehman told the inquest into the attacks at London's Old Bailey.

Denying she had “closed her eyes” to his extremist views despite not reporting concerns to authorities, she said that she mourned “with the rest of London” after the atrocity which claimed the lives of eight people and injured 48.

Ms Rehman broke down in court as she said she had laid flowers at the scene but is “not able to look” at photos of those who lost their lives.

She said she had seen her 27-year-old husband for the last time on 3 June 2017, hours before he launched the attack with Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22. He gave her a “peck” on the cheek at their home, she said.

Hours later, Xavier Thomas, 45, Christine Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were murdered in an attack which lasted less than 10 minutes.

The killers used a van to hit victims then continued their assault on foot with 12 inch ceramic knives. All three were later killed by police.

Armed officers stormed Butt’s home at about the following morning and detained Ms Rehman, she said.

“I could not register it that I was living with him and he was in the same house as me and my kids. And how could he do that? I could not register it," she added, tears flowing. “It took me a long time to register it. Even now, it’s been like two years, and I have not been able to look at the victim’s pictures.

“I mourned for the victims’ families. Nobody knows this but I went to the bridge and laid flowers for the victims’ families. Nobody knew that I was his wife. I was there.”

London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt appearing in Channel 4's 'Jihadis Next Door' documentary (Metropolitan Police)

Counsel to the coroner Jonathan Hough QC asked her: “What would you say if it was suggested that you closed your eyes to signs he might do something terrible?”

She said Butt “never showed any signs” of carrying out an atrocity.

Earlier in her evidence, Ms Rehman said her family seized their passports, along with her son’s, after Butt bought tickets for a “holiday” together in Turkey.

Victims of the London Bridge attack (top row left to right) Christine Archibald, James McMullan, Alexandre Pigeard, Sebastien Belanger, (bottom row left to right) Kirsty Boden, Sara Zelenak, Xavier Thomas and Ignacio Echeverri (PA)

She said she believed he was “so interested in what was going on in Syria that he was just using Turkey as an excuse”.

“He didn’t admit that he wanted to go to Syria but everybody was really doubtful of his intentions,” Ms Rehman said. “It led to people in my family taking my passport, his passport and my son’s passport away just to protect us.”

The tickets were bought around the beginning of 2016, when Butt started associating with hate preacher Anjem Choudary, the inquest heard.

Mr Hough asked: “You had a real concern that his plan was to go to Syria to fight?"

Ms Rehman replied: “Yes, because the people he was hanging around with at that time had those views.”

Mr Hough asked if she thought to “tell the authorities” about it. She said: “Everybody thought they had got through to him and he made promises to everyone.”

The couple, both with Pakistani heritage, had wed in an arranged marriage on Christmas Day in 2013. Videos were shown to the court of their honeymoon in Pakistan.

In one recorded on a plane, Butt and Ms Rehman speak about airports including a “London airport” and Ataturk Airport in Istanbul being renamed after Islamic extremists.

A diagram showing the route the London Bridge attackers walked and ran while stabbing people (Metropolitan Police)

Butt was heard talking about renaming one after Omar Baku, founder of the banned group Al-Muhajiroun.

His wife suggested naming another Abu Luqman, an alias used by Anjem Choudary. Asked if the conversation “troubled” her, Ms Rehman said she “brushed it off as a stupid joke” and suggested Choudary’s alias “to carry on the joke”

In his questioning, Gareth Patterson QC, representing six victims’ families, asked: “Is it the truth that throughout your marriage to this man you not only saw how extreme he was in his radical views, you also did realise that he was capable of something that involved the use of violence?”

Ms Rehman said: “I knew he was capable of packing his bags and going to Turkey or Syria. I never, ever, ever though he would do something to people in this country.”

The inquest continues.

Additional reporting by Press Association

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