Parsons Green attack: Tube bomber Ahmed Hassan convicted of attempted murder

Iraqi asylum seeker had claimed he did not intend anyone to be hurt in blast

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Friday 16 March 2018 12:30
Parsons Green attacker Ahmed Hassan's journey after attack caught on CCTV

An Iraqi asylum seeker has been convicted of attempted murder over the bombing of a Tube train in London.

Ahmed Hassan’s device failed to fully explode in a carriage packed with commuters at Parsons Green Tube station, bursting into a fireball that injured several people and caused a stampede.

He denied intending to cause harm, telling the Old Bailey he had been “bored” in the summer holidays and fantasised about becoming a fugitive after watching action films.

But a jury convicted him of attempted murder after hearing “overwhelming evidence” of his guilt.

Mr Justice Haddon-Cave said: “Ahmed Hassan, you have been found guilty by this jury at the Old Bailey of attempted murder on overwhelming evidence.”

Hassan will be sentenced next week using counter-terror laws that allow judges to increase jail terms for crimes with a “terrorist connection”.

Witnesses had told the jury of their terror when the device exploded during the morning rush hour on 15 September.

They described sustaining horrific burns and other injuries in a stampede to escape the District Line train stopped at Parsons Green station, with more than 50 people wounded in total.

Hassan admitted making an explosive device, which he was caught on CCTV carrying on to the train in a Lidl bag.

But he claimed he was “certain” it would not explode and would only burn after testing a sample in his foster parents’ kitchen in Surrey.

Prosecutors, however, told the court Hassan was moved by “anger and hatred” when he planted the 400g of explosives, surrounded by shrapnel intended to inflict death and destruction.

The trial heard the student told a college mentor that it was his “duty to hate Britain”, and others that he blamed the UK and America for the death of his father in Iraq.

Hassan told immigration officials he had been forced to become an Isis child soldier after arriving in Britain in the back of a lorry via the Channel Tunnel in October 2015.

The teenager claimed he had been “trained to kill” by the terrorist group and indoctrinated in “what Allah believed was right”.

But while giving evidence to the Old Bailey, he said he had lied because he wanted to claim asylum and had no contact with Isis.

“Because I came from a wealthy, safe area in northern Iraq in Kurdistan and if I told the truth my only reason to leave the country was to further my studies – I felt I had to make up something strong,” Hassan told the court.

“In the Jungle in Calais people used to talk about these things and make up stories. I never came across a refugee who said he would tell the truth when he arrived in the country.”

Hassan had been a model student at Brooklands College in Surrey, but used a £20 Amazon voucher awarded for being named “student of the year” to buy the necessary chemicals for the bomb.

While his foster parents, who were made MBEs for their decades of service to children, were away on holiday, he researched explosives, ordered the ingredients online and collected them from a friend’s home.

Katie Cable, Hassan’s former tutor, said he had mood swings and needed hospital treatment for suicidal thoughts.

He told her it was his “duty to hate Britain”, expressing anger over the Iraq War and Tony Blair.

“I believe Ahmed said his father was blown up and his mother had been shot,” Ms Cable told the Old Bailey.

“I believe the anger was very clear. He referred to being angry several times.”

Hassan told her “the British” were responsible for his parents’ deaths and Ms Cable contacted Prevent after seeing a WhatsApp message on his phone stating that “IS has accepted your donation” from August 2016.

Counter-terror officers tracked the bomber down using CCTV from public transport 

But the tutor believed that Hassan was possibly being “scammed” and did not believe he was an Isis supporter, but had depression that worsened during the isolation of the summer holidays.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan described Hassan as “troubled” but said the bombing was a deliberate “act of anger and hatred designed to cause death and destruction of property”.

The teenager “left nothing to chance in the preparation of this attack”, she told the court, adding: “It is a matter of luck that there was not a full explosion that day, not because of any deliberate intention on the part of the defendant to cause just a fire.”

Hassan had told the jury he wanted to go to university and “become a wildlife photographer like David Attenborough”.

“I was very bored, very stressed, very confused and I watched lots of movies, action movies during that time... the idea of being a fugitive got into my head,” he said.

“The idea of killing another human being never crossed my mind at all, never in my life.”

The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Hassan had never admitted a clear motive for the attack and that, perhaps due to his destruction of a phone and laptop, there was no evidence of him being inspired by Isis.

The terrorist group claimed responsibility for the bombing just hours after it was carried out via its Amaq News Agency, but the statement contained no details suggesting prior knowledge or contact with Hassan.

Prosecutors told the court Hassad had covered the bomb with shrapnel to inflict death and destruction 

Sue Hemming, of the CPS, said: “It was only a matter of luck that the device did not work as he intended or it could easily have led to the loss of innocent lives.”

The Metropolitan Police called Hassan “devious and cunning”, praising the work of counter-terror officers who tracked the bomber down by using CCTV from public transport.

Investigators suggested that the bomb may not have fully exploded because it was “disturbed” as Hassan carried it to the Tube.

Temporary Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon said: “I hope that today’s outcome will help those who were injured and on the tube that day to start to put this terrible ordeal behind them.”

Ben Wallace, the security minister, said there are “lessons to be learned” from the case but praised authorities for their work.

“I welcome the conviction of Hassan who sought to spread terror in this country and murder innocent people,” he added.

“This case is a bleak reminder of the devastating consequences of radicalisation.”

Mr Wallace said the police and local council had conducted an internal review into the case and the Home Office will review the findings to identify improvements.

“However we should not allow this to undermine all the good work taking place across the country to stop terrorism and our work to help those who are legitimately in need,” the minister added.

“Ultimately, no one should be in doubt that those who bear responsibility for the atrocious attacks we have seen in the past year are the terrorists themselves.”

Additional reporting by PA