Terror plotter who claimed he was peaceful ‘Alan Titchmarsh fan’ jailed for life

Judge says Sahayb Abu started planning sword attack ‘within no time’ after being freed from prison

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 13 April 2021 12:24
Alleged terror plotter raps about being a 'straight Isis supporter'

An Isis supporter who tried to buy a sharpened, deadly 18in “warrior sword” to commit terror in Britain has been jailed for life.

Sahayb Abu, 27, ordered the sword and a combat vest online but did not receive them after police intervened in his plot.

He had already obtained a lock knife, balaclavas, gloves and other clothing prosecutors said would be used in an attack.

On Tuesday, the Old Bailey heard that if Abu had acquired the sword and body armour, he “would have been in possession of all that he needed to carry out a lone attack on a target of his choice”.

Judge Mark Dennis QC added: “He was anxious to take delivery of these items and carry out this act without further delay.

“He intended to commit it without coming to harm himself and without being recognised … all that was left to decide was the time and place.”

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He sentenced Abu to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 19 years, for preparing an act of terrorism.

Abu, who denied preparing acts of terrorism, was convicted by majority on 12 March, and told the jury he was a “man of world peace” who was a fan of TV gardener Alan Titchmarsh.

While giving evidence to the jury in February, Abu said his efforts were focused on starting up a charity that would grow crops for developing countries.

He told jurors on Tuesday: “Honest to God this is what I had planned for my life, I swear to you. I’m no Alan Titchmarsh but I was trying to get there.”

Abu said he watched videos of the veteran gardener and broadcaster, “growing stuff, snipping this and snipping that”, adding: “I wanted to learn how to do this thing.”

Sahayb Abu takes a selfie to send to two of his brothers

Abu also said he aspired to earn money as a rap artiste under the name the “Masked Menace”. The court was played violent and pro-Isis lyrics he recorded but he claimed they were merely parodies of drill artists.

A rap sent to two brothers on 5 July ended with the words: “My shank [knife] penetrate ya, got my suicide vest – one click, boom, and I'll see you later.”

In reference to the 2013 terror attack where two Islamist extremists murdered a soldier, Abu said: “I’m trying to see many Lee Rigby’s heads rolling on the ground.

“I shoot up a crowd cos I’m a night stalker, got my shank, got my guns – straight Isis supporter – reject democracy ... advocate sharia supporter.”

Abu also sang about “eliminating the foes” and wrote hateful messages about non-Muslims and Shia Muslims.

A five-week trial at the Old Bailey heard that two half-brothers, Wail and Suleyman Aweys, joined Isis in Syria in 2015 and were later killed.

Three other relatives were jailed in 2019 for disseminating Isis propaganda and Abu socialised with terrorist prisoners while serving a term for conspiracy to burgle.

Judge Dennis said it was not clear when Abu became part of the “scene of extremism in his family”.

He told the plotter that the deaths of his half-brothers and imprisonment of other relatives should have caused him to turn his back on jihadist ideology.

He said: “But within weeks of your own release from prison you had sought out and joined extremists committed to supporting and promoting that same violent cause. Within no time, you were getting ready to carry out your own act of violence on the streets of this country.”

The weapon that Sahayb Abu had attempted to buy

The judge said that Abu, of Ilford, east London, had expressed no remorse during the trial and posed a continuing threat to the public because of his support for violent jihad.

Prosecutors said he started mounting the plot shortly after being freed from jail a year ago and viewed propaganda by Isis and extremist preachers.

In a text message to his brothers on 3 July, Abu said he “aspired not to live to be 30”.

He claimed that the “world is against Muslims” and that he did not want to die until he had “gained some type of revenge”.

“The kuffar [disbelievers] have felt their share of pain, I just wish it was multiplied a million fold.”

Two days before, he had ordered an 18in blade from an online shop that described it as a, “deadly close-combat design … used by warriors”, and paid extra to have it sharpened before delivery.

Abu also discussed the possibility of obtaining a gun with an undercover police officer, who had been posing as a fellow jihadi in an online chat group.

Commander Richard Smith, of the Metropolitan Police Counter-Terrorism Command, said the investigation started in March last year because of concerns about Abu’s mindset.

He said police were not sure exactly what Abu’s target would have been and decided to arrest him quickly in July because of fears he would obtain a gun.

Michael Ivers QC, defending, argued that Abu had “other plans” outside the attack plot and that it was not his sole focus.

He told the sentencing hearing: “There is a real indication of not just passing interest in other things but someone who is often pursuing various interests.

“But for his family connections it’s not likely that Abu would be someone going down the path to committing these offences.”