Westminster car crash copycat terrorist Salih Khater jailed for life

Salih Khater has been jailed for life (Picture: PA)

A copycat terrorist who tried to "kill as many people as possible" when he ploughed into cyclists and police officers outside the Houses of Parliament has been jailed for life.

Salih Khater, 30, drove his Ford Fiesta into a pedestrian and riders who had stopped at a red light in Parliament Square on August 14 last year.

He then careered into a security lane and crashed into barriers as two police officers jumped out of the way.

The attack was caught on CCTV footage which was played in court. The Old Bailey heard Khater, of Highgate Street, Birmingham, wanted to cause maximum carnage and it was "miraculous" that no-one was killed.

Alison Morgan QC had told jurors Khater's attack was "premeditated and deliberate" and had a terrorist motive, although the details were unclear.

Khater claimed he came to London to find the Sudanese embassy to get a visa but "got lost" around Westminster and panicked.

A jury rejected his explanation for the crash and found him guilty of two charges of attempted murder in July.

In mitigation, Peter Carter QC told the court Khater remained an "enigma" and he had still not offered an explanation for what he did.

The silver Ford Fiesta driven by Salih Khater after it crashed outside the Houses of Parliament (Picture: PA)
CCTV footage of the moment Salih Khater drove a silver Ford Fiesta at cyclists before crashing into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament (Picture: PA)

He told the judge: "Had there been any evidence of any link between this man and a terrorist organisation or terrorist individual or had there been any connection that he had expressed any interest in or showed any desire to pursue any link to terrorism it would have been before your ladyship. There is not. The lack of evidence is not a proper basis for drawing a conclusion there is evidence of a terrorist connection."

‘Kill as many people as possible’

But Mrs Justice McGowan found Khater had deliberately copied other terrorists as she jailed him on Monday for life with a minimum term of 15 years.

She said: "Your undoubted intention was to kill as many people as possible and by doing so spread fear and terror."

She added: "You replicated the acts of others who undoubtedly have acted with terrorist motives. You deliberately copied those others."

"It was an attack on strangers and police officers at the seat of democracy in this country.

"You are dangerous in that you present a significant risk of causing serious harm to the public in the future.

"Even acting alone, you acted for a terrorist purpose. All the evidence is consistent with that conclusion."

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The court had 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.

Signs of ‘paranoia’

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 day before the attack, Khater had travelled to Peterborough and unsuccessfully applied for a fast-track UK passport, the court heard. He then set off from Birmingham to London just before 10pm, arriving after midnight.

CCTV footage of Salih Khater getting into his car in Westminster before the attack (Picture: PA)

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.

He went on to do four laps of the square before launching the rush-hour attack.

Car ‘came out of nowhere’

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.

Other people were trapped under their bikes, with some screaming in pain. 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.

Salih Khater leaving the Passport Office in Peterborough where he applied for a fast-track UK passport the day before he carried out a terrorist attack outside the Houses of Parliament (Picture: PA)

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

Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met's Counter Terrorism Command, said: "I am pleased at today's sentence and that an extremely dangerous individual will be behind bars for a considerable time.

‘A terrorist purpose’

"This was a man who used his car as a weapon to attempt to kill as many people as possible spreading fear and terror. It was our view that this attack was carried out with a terrorist purpose and the sentence confirms this.

"I would like to pay tribute to the outstanding professionalism and bravery of all the officers who responded to this incident.

"Armed officers were on the scene within seconds and would not have known what other dangers Khater may have posed. The response of those officers and, indeed, all emergency service responders to this incident was truly remarkable.

"My thoughts too are with all the victims of this terrible attack. Many were left with physical and psychological injuries, which are still impacting on their lives today. I only hope that today's outcome can give them some small comfort."

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