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Man radicalised by TV drama rammed van into Muslims near London mosque

Darren Osborne was found guilty on February 1, 2018 of murder and attempted murder after deliberately driving into a group of people outside a London mosque

world Updated: Feb 01, 2018 22:21 IST
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 19, 2017 Police cordon off a street in the Finsbury Park area of north London after a vehichle hit pedestrians.
(FILES) In this file photo taken on June 19, 2017 Police cordon off a street in the Finsbury Park area of north London after a vehichle hit pedestrians. (AFP)

A man who developed a hatred of Muslims after watching a TV drama about child sex abuse involving British Pakistani men was found guilty on Thursday of ploughing a van into worshippers outside a north London mosque weeks later, killing one.

Darren Osborne, 48, who had not previously expressed far-right views, became obsessed with Muslims after viewing the BBC’s “Three Girls”, about events in Rochdale, northern England, where white girls were abused by peadophile gangs.

He then researched extreme right-wing figures and groups, which sent him into a spiral of wanting to carry out an attack, police said.

“What this case demonstrates is that individuals can be become radicalised really, really quickly,” said Commander Dean Haydon, the head of London’s Counter Terrorism Command. “To be honest, some individuals look at material today and decide to do an attack later on this evening.”

In a garbled handwritten note left in the van, Osborne described Muslim men as rapists, “feral” and “in-bred” and expressed his contempt for Muslim London mayor Sadiq Khan and socialist opposition Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, whom he later told jurors he had wanted to kill on the day of his attack.

He was also angered by three recent deadly Islamist incidents in Britain, and his attack occurred just weeks after three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before stabbing people in nearby bars and restaurants, killing eight.

That rampage came the month after a suicide bombing at a pop concert in Manchester killed 22 people. In March another Islamic State-inspired attacker killed five people by driving a car into passers-by on London’s Westminster Bridge and then stabbing to death a police officer in the grounds of parliament.

Early on June 18, Osborne left his home in Cardiff, Wales, in a heavy van he had rented the day before and drove to central London. His original plan was to attack a pro-Palestinian march and he told the court his intent was to target Corbyn, although Haydon said there was no evidence of any direct threat.

Thwarted by road closures, Osborne headed south where he unsuccessfully looked for a mosque before going to north London and the Finsbury Park area.

Shortly after midnight, he came across a group of Muslims gathered around Makram Ali, 51, a father-of-six originally from Bangladesh, who had collapsed after leaving late-night Ramadan prayers.

He drove into the group, killing Ali, who died less than 300 feet (90 m) from his front door, and injuring 12 others, two seriously. Those at the scene apprehended him with local imam Mohammed Mahmoud intervening to ensure he was unharmed.

“DAVE DID IT”

In his defence, Osborne claimed he had planned the attack with two others, someone called “Dave” and a man called Terry Jones. He said Dave had been driving the van.

“We are satisfied (they) do not exist,” Haydon said, pointing to confessions from Osborne at the scene and a swathe of CCTV evidence.

At Woolwich Crown Court on Thursday, Osborne was found guilty of murder and attempted murder, with police and prosecutors saying it was an act of terrorism. Haydon described him as “a devious, vile and hate-filled individual”.

He will be sentenced at the court on Friday.

Osborne, an unemployed father-of-four, had a history of violence, depression, drug and alcohol abuse and had served a two-year prison sentence for assault.

He had no fixed home, and had separated from his partner, spending the night before the attack in a tent in her back garden. She described him as a ticking time-bomb.

Britain has been a target for foreign and homegrown Islamists since the Sept. 11 2001 U.S. attacks, but Haydon said right-wing groups were an emerging threat. Arrests for far-right extremism were rising, he said, and Britain has recently banned three groups for the first time since the 1940s.

Last year, a Nazi-obsessed loner was jailed for life for murdering lawmaker Jo Cox just a week before the European Union referendum in 2016.