London Bridge attack ringleader passed TfL background check to work on Tube despite appearing in jihadi documentary

Khuram Butt was reported to anti-terrorist hotline before being employed as Tube customer services assistant

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 28 May 2019 16:08 BST
Butts job gave him access to a London Underground station in a security capacity
Butts job gave him access to a London Underground station in a security capacity (Channel 4)

The ringleader of the London Bridge attack passed a background check to work on the Underground despite being reported to an anti-terrorist hotline, a member of a banned group, investigated by MI5 and appearing in a documentary on jihadis.

Khuram Butt was employed by Transport for London as a customer service assistant on a salary of £23,000 a year in the summer of 2016, inquests into the attack heard.

The Old Bailey was told that compulsory background checks did not flag up Butt’s appearance in a television documentary called the Jihadis Next Door, which aired months before.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the inquests, asked whether Butt’s job “gave him access to a London Underground station in a security capacity”.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Wayne Jolley, who investigated the attacker’s background, replied: “Yes, it did.”

Butt had made no attempt to hide his identity while appearing alongside a group of known extremists from Anjem Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun Islamist group.

Described as Britain’s “most prolific and dangerous extremist group”, supporters have carried out atrocities including 7/7 London bombings – which targeted the Tube and buses – and fought for Isis, al-Qaeda and the Taliban abroad.

The documentary showed Butt joining a public prayer towards a black flag associated with Isis, alongside a man who later joined the terrorist group in Syria.

An unaired clip, which was filmed in August 2015, was played to the court showing Butt ranting about British airstrikes.

The court heard that Butt’s relatives said he “brought shame on the family” in the programme and forced him to apologise.

Earlier the same year, relatives threatened to disown Butt and report him to the police over fears he wanted to travel to Syria.

In mid-2015, MI5 opened an investigation codenamed Operation Hawthorn over intelligence suggesting that Butt was planning a terror attack in the UK, putting him under surveillance.

Then in September 2015, Butt’s brother-in-law reported him to the anti-terrorist hotline after a debate over a gory Isis propaganda video showing a Jordanian pilot being burned to death in a cage.

Khuram Butt with members of al-Muhajiroun in a 2016 documentary
Khuram Butt with members of al-Muhajiroun in a 2016 documentary (Channel 4)

Before joining London Underground, Butt had various jobs at a domestic refuge, Topshop, a pizza restaurant and at a removal company.

The court heard he persuaded his wife to give him money, made cash by obtaining mobile phones and selling them on Gumtree, and sought a handout from Transport for London’s staff welfare fund.

Butt took sick leave from the Tube after claiming that “company shoes were causing issues” and was sacked in October 2016.

The court heard that while claiming he was unable to work, Butt started training at the Ummah Fitness Centre in Ilford.

He got to know fellow attacker Rachid Redouane at the gym, which was run by a senior member of al-Muhajiroun linked to a network of safe houses for British jihadis and terror training camps in Pakistan.

Sajeel Shahid’s wife, Sophie Rahman, was the headteacher of an Islamic primary school in Ilford and asked Butt to give children Quran lessons 18 months before the London Bridge attack.

The court heard that fellow terrorist Youssef Zaghba also volunteered at Ad-Deen primary school, which was shut down in the wake of the atrocity.

The court heard that Butt had been a “party animal” who drank, smoked and used drugs, before showing signs of extremism in 2013.

Butt told a colleague the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby – by two extremists who were also linked to al-Muhajiroun – was an “eye for an eye”.

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The Independent previously reported how Butt was spotted alongside Choudary at a protest following Mr Rigby’s murder in 2013, where he called a counter-extremism campaigner an apostate.

The inquest heard that the would-be terrorist became “like a lion out of a cage” in Choudary’s company and had been “energised” by the hate preacher, who was jailed for inviting support for Isis but has since been freed.

Butt was also arrested numerous times, including on suspicion of fraud and for abusing a researcher from the Quilliam counter-extremism think-tank in 2016.

No charges were brought in either case, and following his death Butt was linked to another incident in April 2017.

A man reported losing an iPad, which was later found in Butt’s home, after a car he thought was a taxi drove away and broke his leg.

Butt had been born in Pakistan in 1990 and came to Britain on a visitor’s visa with his family at the age of eight, the court heard.

In 2004, following the death of his father from a heart attack, he was given indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

He went to schools in Forest Gate and Stratford in east London, gaining 11 GCSEs.

Butt married Zahrah Rehman ​in December 2013 and they went on to have two children, his daughter born just a month before the terror attack.

A friend told police that Butt liked playing football, supported Arsenal and had been into reggae music.

Butt wore an Arsenal shirt under a fake suicide vest during the London Bridge attack, when he Redouane and Zaghba ploughed a hired van into pedestrians before launching a stabbing rampage in Borough Market.

They killed eight victims and injured 48 more before being shot dead by armed police.

The inquest continues.

Additional reporting by PA

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