Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

Man found guilty of trying to kill cyclists and police outside Parliament

A man has been found guilty of trying to kill cyclists and police officers after driving towards them outside the Houses of Parliament.

Salih Khater, 30, was found guilty by a jury on two charges of attempted murder at the Old Bailey on Wednesday morning.

On August 14 last year, Khater drove his Ford Fiesta at a pedestrian and a group of cyclists stopped at a junction outside Parliament.

He then ploughed towards two police officers who managed to jump out of the way, before crashing into a security barrier.

The prosecution claimed that while Khater’s motive for the attack was unclear by targeting Westminster, the defendant had a ‘terrorist motive’.

The Old Bailey heard Khater, of Birmingham, wanted to cause maximum carnage and it was ‘miraculous’ no one was killed.

Khater had denied both attempted murder charges and alternative counts of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm.

During the trial Khater said he had travelled to the capital to visit the Sudanese embassy but had got lost and collided with pedestrians as he pulled over.

The jury deliberated over two days before rejecting his explanation.

Jenny Hopkins, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: ‘It was only quick reactions and good luck that stopped Salih Khater killing anyone when he drove his car into cyclists and police officers outside Westminster.

‘His driving was so precise and determined that it was difficult for skilled accident investigators to repeat the manoeuvre he carried out.

‘Whatever his motives, this was not an accident. It was a deliberate attempt to kill and maim as many people as possible.’

Mrs Justice McGowan remanded him into custody to be sentenced on October 7 and ordered pre-sentence reports to help her determine Khater’s potential threat of danger.

She said: ‘He caused widespread fear and chaos but miraculously, and contrary to his intentions, he did not kill anyone that day.

‘Those who were faced with a vehicle being driven at them at high velocity somehow, and largely by their quick responses, managed to avoid death or very serious injury.’

Numerous cyclists were trapped under their bikes, with some screaming in pain, while others suffered broken bones.

The court heard how Khater was born in Sudan and was granted asylum in Britain in 2010, after claiming he had been tortured in his home country.

In the months before the attack, the defendant showed signs of ‘paranoia’ about British authorities, it was claimed.

He had failed his accountancy exams at the University of Coventry and his work as a security guard had dried up.

On May 24 last year, he emailed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to express concern about an ‘event’ involving the intelligence services, the court heard.

The jury were told how the day before the attack, Khater had travelled to Peterborough and unsuccessfully applied for a fast-track UK passport.

He then set off from Birmingham to London just before 10pm, arriving after midnight.

Evidence from his mobile phone showed he had looked up maps for 10 Downing Street and Westminster on the internet as potential ‘deliberate targets’.

CCTV captured Khater arriving in Parliament Square just before 1am and driving around Westminster, checking the layout for the attack five or six hours later.

He then parked up and rested for four-and-a-half hours in Windmill Street in Soho before returning to Parliament Square, before going on to do four laps of the square before launching the rush-hour attack.

Pedestrian Paul Brown was crossing the road when Khater’s car ‘came out of nowhere’ and hit him, causing bruising and grazes.

Krystof Tokarski and Anya Breen were cycling to work and were waiting at traffic lights when Khater revved his engine and knocked them down.

Mr Tokarski suffered grazes and a broken little finger while Ms Breen was thrown over the bonnet, fracturing her collar bone.

The defendant made a sharp turn into a slip road, going 32mph, forcing Pc Darren Shotton and Pc Simon Short to dive out of the way.

As armed police removed Khater from the car, the defendant confirmed he was acting alone but failed to explain himself.

Giving evidence, Khater said he wanted to return to Sudan to visit his sick mother and had Googled Downing Street and Westminster in his bid to find his way around central London.

He said: ‘I remember something made me panic. The car was not in my full control at the time.’

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