Finsbury Park attacker found guilty of murder

Darren Osborne, who drove van into Muslims outside mosque, convicted of terrorist attack that killed Makram Ali

A man has been convicted of murder and attempted murder after driving a van into a group of Muslims near a north London mosque in a terrorist attack.

A jury concluded that Darren Osborne intended to kill as many Muslims as possible and had been “brainwashed” after gorging on extremist rightwing propaganda online.

A jury of eight women and four men took one hour to convict the father of four. Osborne, who had denied both charges, nodded in the dock as the verdict was read out but showed little emotion. He will be sentenced on Friday.

Police believe one catalyst for his three-week spiral into terrorism was a BBC drama about a Muslim grooming gang.

The attack last June left Makram Ali, 51, dead with a tyre mark across his chest and 12 others injured after the van Osborne was driving struck people in Finsbury Park.

Osborne, 48, was convicted after a trial at Woolwich crown court in south-east London. The case was prosecuted as a terrorist offence because Osborne’s actions were taken in order to advance a political purpose, a factor that will be taken into account when the sentence is decided.

In a defence that the prosecutor, Jonathan Rees QC, described as “absurd”, he had claimed “a guy called Dave”, who was not visible on any CCTV footage, had been driving the van while he changed his trousers in the footwell.

The jury was told by the prosecution that the act was terrorism driven by Osborne’s hatred of Muslims, which his partner said had developed rapidly in the weeks before the attack, leaving him “a ticking timebomb”.

One witness heard the van “accelerate and the noise of changing gears” as the engine revved, its impact leaving a scene of horror with a limb trapped under a wheel.

Two minutes before the attack, Ali had become ill and fallen to the ground 100 yards from his home. It was just after 12.15am and Muslims were thronging the streets after prayers at two nearby mosques to mark the festival of Ramadan.

The attack came after three Islamist terrorist attacks in London and Manchester. A note recovered from the van Osborne had driven down from Wales, where he lived, railed against Muslims, the London mayor, Sadiq Khan, and the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

The jury heard that after the attack, Osborne was saved by an imam, who protected him despite his attempt to run down Muslims. Osborne was seen to smile and say: “I’ve done my bit.”

Opening the case, Rees said Osborne was heard by witnesses to say: “I’ve done my job. You can kill me now.” The prosecutor said a witness claimed the attacker was “constantly smiling”.

Rees said Osborne was seen hitting out at people as he tried to escape the throng and said: “I want to kill more Muslims.”

Osborne’s partner, Sarah Andrews, told detectives that in the weeks before the attack, his attitude had changed after he watched Three Girls, a BBC TV drama about the Rochdale grooming scandal.

Andrews said in a witness statement that Osborne had become “obsessed” with Muslims and was an avid follower of social media postings by the former English Defence League leader Tommy Robinson, as well as members of the far-right group Britain First.

The jury heard that the pair had watched Three Girls and, in a statement read to the court, Andrews said she believed Osborne had become angry “about seeing young girls exploited” and developed his fixation with Muslims from that point.

She said Osborne “seemed brainwashed” and had been watching content posted online by Robinson, leading him to seek out more extremist material.

Smartphones and computers showed Osborne had viewed material from Britain First, a group that “campaigns primarily against multiculturalism and what it sees as the Islamisisation of the UK”, Rees told the jury.

Osborne had not worked for a decade and had mental health problems. He tried to kill himself shortly before the attack.

Ali was a father of six children, four daughters and two sons, and had suffered from ill health.

The attack sent shockwaves through Muslim communities in Britain, and came as many noted increasing rhetorical attacks in the mainstream media and from politicians, alongside a rise in extreme rightwing violence. Counter-terrorism officials have also noted an increase in violent attacks.

Osborne was not known to police or MI5 for extremism before his lone-wolf attack.

His defence to the jury contradicted CCTV evidence and a statement his lawyers had submitted to the court on his behalf.

He told the jury that it was “sod’s law” that CCTV had not picked up the point along the route where his supposed co-conspirator Dave had got into the vehicle, adding that he had no idea where Dave had gone in the aftermath of the attack.

CCTV footage shows he was the only person to leave the van after the attack, and carried out reconnaissance by foot shortly beforehand, again on his own.

He wrote the note setting out his extremist views in a Cardiff pub, where CCTV footage and witnesses confirm he was on his own.

Following Osborne’s conviction Sue Hemming, from the CPS, said: “Darren Osborne planned and carried out this attack because of his hatred of Muslims.

“He later invented an unconvincing story to counter the overwhelming weight of evidence but the jury has convicted him. We have been clear throughout that this was a terrorist attack, and he must now face the consequences of his actions.”

The Guardian

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