Monday, 26 Oct 2020

Mum who plotted to ‘blow up St Paul's Cathedral' got 'cold feet' over attack

A homegrown Islamic State supporter who said she wanted to ‘blow St Paul’s Cathedral to the ground’ in an Easter terror attack was getting ‘cold feet’ and would never have gone through with it, a court was told.

Muslim convert Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a 37-year-old mother from Hayes in west London, kept ‘having doubts’ about going through with the plot, but said she did not want to disappoint two ‘friends’ she was conspiring with.

Shaikh was said to have become distressed following her arrest when it was disclosed to her that those two friends were actually undercover police officers.

The Old Bailey heard Shaikh carried out a reconnaissance mission to the central London landmark in September 2019, but pushed the date of the attack back from Christmas to Easter.

She had also gone through the early stages of getting fitted for a suicide vest, saying she wanted to carry out a mass atrocity before becoming a martyr.

However, she cancelled a subsequent meeting with the undercover officers in October as she ‘started to get doubts’, prompting concerned police to swoop in and arrest her.

Her barrister Ben Newton said: ‘This particular terrorist act would never have actually happened.

‘Three people were involved in this plot, and the other two were undercover police officers.

‘There was no bomb, and there never would be.

‘On evidence before the court, there were clear indicators Safiyya Shaikh had cold feet and wouldn’t go through with it.’

Shaikh, wearing a hijab, wept as her counsel outlined her ‘life of pain and loneliness’, and described how she suffered a ‘truly traumatic childhood’.

Mr Newton said his client went to great lengths in her efforts to please people, even travelling to Pakistan to get married against her will, before backing out at the last minute and being sent home to the UK in disgrace.

He said: ‘She didn’t want to blow up a church of people, she just wanted friends.’

Shaikh – formerly known as Michelle Ramsden – admits preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications on the internet.

The court heard she converted to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of a local Muslim family.

But prosecutor Alison Morgan QC told the court she became increasingly disillusioned by what she saw as the mosques’ moderate version of Islam, and ‘was keen to boast’ about the extremist propaganda she posted online, encouraging others to commit acts of violence in the name of so-called Islamic State.

The sentencing hearing was adjourned until Thursday.

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