The “devious” 18-year-old has been convicted at the Old Bailey of attempted murder “on overwhelming evidence”
A “devious” Iraqi asylum seeker has been found guilty of trying to murder dozens of commuters on a crowded tube train using a device packed with nails and rusty metal.
Ahmed Hassan didn’t react as he was convicted of attempted murder today “on overwhelming evidence” after the Parsons Green Tube bombing.
The David Attenborough wannabe denied intending to cause harm, telling jurors he made the device as a cry for attention, having developed a fugitive fantasy fuelled by action films.
But Mr Justice Haddon-Cave told the 18-year-old: “Ahmed Hassan, you have been found guilty by this jury at the Old Bailey of attempted murder on overwhelming evidence.
“I am now going to discuss with counsel the arrangements and timings for sentencing you.”
He was remanded in custody to be sentenced on a date to be fixed next week.
The homemade bucket bomb, which sent a terrifying fireball rushing through the carriage, was packed with 2.2kg of screwdrivers, knives, nuts and bolts and could have been “lethal” if it had detonated.
The Old Bailey heard Hassan wanted to cause “maximum” carnage to avenge the death of his father, who was blown up in Iraq more than 10 years before.
Hassan denied it, saying he only wanted to make a fire to fulfil a “fugitive fantasy” to be chased by Interpol which was inspired by action films.
Sue Hemming from the CPS said: “It was only a matter of luck that the device did not work as he intended or it could easily have led to the loss of innocent lives.”
Jurors in the trial at the Old Bailey were shown pictures of the content of the bomb – made with 400g of volatile “Mother of Satan” explosives.
During his trial the court heard that Hassan used a “student of the year” prize to buy a key ingredient for the device on Amazon and made it in the kitchen of his foster home in Sunbury, Surrey.
He left the bomb inside a bucket in a Lidl bag and timed it to blow up during the morning rush hour on September 15 last year, the Old Bailey heard.
Commuters fled as a fireball ripped through the carriage, leaving more than 50 people injured either by the blast or the stampede that followed.
However, he later claimed he was “certain” it would not explode, instead “just burn”, after testing a sample on the kitchen table – and maintained that the idea of killing someone had never crossed his mind.
But the prosecution claimed the student was moved by “anger and hatred” when he planted the 400g of explosives on the packed District Line carriage.
During his trial Hassan described himself to jurors as a shy, studious teenager who smuggled himself across Europe in search of a better life, with dreams of becoming the next Sir David Attenborough.
The budding wildlife photographer said he was no terrorist, but that a long, boring summer in Britain last year had led him to develop a fantasy of becoming a fugitive.
Speaking in a quiet voice with a bowed head, Hassan, small and slight in frame, said he was born in Iraq’s capital Baghdad in June 1999.
Timeline of Parson’s Green Bombing
Here is a timeline of the events surrounding the Parsons Green Tube bombing:
October 2015 – Iraqi asylum seeker Ahmed Hassan arrives in the UK on the back of a lorry which travelled through the Channel Tunnel. He is eventually placed into foster care.
January 18, 2016 – Hassan’s claim for asylum is based on his assertion that he was in fear of Islamic State.
He denies the group sent him to Europe to work for them, but reveals that they had trained him to kill.
He later tells his trial that he made up the story to strengthen his asylum claim. He tells jurors he had no associations with the terrorist group.
January 19, 2016 – Barnardo’s contacts the Counter Terrorism Unit and Prevent following Hassan’s immigration interview with the Home Office, to which he was accompanied by one of the charity’s workers.
April 2016 – Hassan is referred to Brooklands College by Surrey Social Services. He starts a media course, during which he enjoys doing some wildlife photography, later telling his trial he wanted to be like Sir David Attenborough.
June 2017 – Hassan is named student of the year at college and awarded a £20 Amazon voucher.
August 21 – September 3, 2017 – Hassan carries out searches online for hydrogen peroxide and sulphuric acid, components to make explosives.
August 26 – Hassan buys five litres of hydrogen peroxide – using his voucher – and gives the delivery address of a friend in Thornton Heath, south London.
August 31 – Hassan visits his friend to collect the key ingredient which was delivered the day before. CCTV footage captures him on a bus carrying a Lidl carrier bag.
September 1-8 – Hassan’s foster parents are away on holiday in Blackpool.
September 3 – Hassan buys sulphuric acid from Amazon which is delivered to his home in Sunbury, in Surrey, on September 6.
September 14 – On the day before the attack, Hassan visits Asda and Aldi in Feltham to buy the shrapnel for his home-made device. He tells the court he simply wanted to make it look “serious” and used nails because he “wanted something to fill the space in the container”. He claims he tested 50g of TATP on the kitchen table, but the prosecution said there were no burn marks or traces of explosives left in its wake.
September 15 – Day of the bombing. Hassan stays awake on a sofa in the conservatory all night with the device next to him.
- 7am: Hassan leaves his house and boards a train from Sunbury to Wimbledon. He walks with the bag in hand to the toilets where he spends 13 minutes and allegedly sets the timer on the device.
- 8.17am: CCTV shows Hassan getting off the Tube at Putney Bridge station, no longer carrying the bag.
- Shortly before 8.20am: The homemade device partially detonates on a carriage carrying 93 people.
- 8.27am: Hassan is seen on a bus travelling towards Earl’s Court. He then makes his way to Brighton, Ashford and ends up in Dover by about 2.30pm.
September 16 – 7.52am Hassan is arrested in the Kent port and later tells officers he was responsible for the bomb.
March 7, 2018 – Hassan goes on trial at the Old Bailey. He denies attempted murder and using the chemical compound TATP to cause an explosion that was likely to endanger life.
March 13 – Hassan gives evidence, admitting that he made the device and put it on the train, but saying he did not intend for it to explode or anyone to be harmed. He claims it was the result of a fugitive fantasy he had in his head, inspired by action movies and documentaries. He tells jurors he is sorry and regrets his actions, saying: “I wish I could travel back in time and stop it at once, but that’s not possible.”
March 16 – A jury convicts Hassan of attempted murder at the Old Bailey. He is remanded in custody to be sentenced on a date to be fixed next week.
Hassan had been referred to the de-radicalisation team in Surrey after telling Home Office officials he had been forced to train to kill by Islamic State in Iraq.
He appeared to engage with them, even as he planned to cause carnage in central London.
Mr Haydon said: “I describe Hassan as an intelligent and articulate individual that is devious and cunning in equal measures.
“He was studying at college in Surrey. Those very close to him, his foster family, friends and mentor, that were with him knew nothing about his plot of that actual attack.
“After he placed the device, he then tried to flee. He disposed of his phone, his sim card. He changed his clothes and he was finally arrested at the Port of Dover trying to get out of the country.”
On the potential harm the bomb could have caused, he said: “He placed a viable bomb on a busy underground train during rush hour heading for central London. He had set the bomb on a timer.
“He got off at Putney Bridge and the train continued to one stop beyond – Parsons Green – where it partially detonated.
“It’s only good fortune that it did partially detonate. If it had (detonated fully) without a doubt we would have been dealing with many casualties.
“If it had detonated properly it would have killed many people on that Tube and seriously injured many others.”
Mr Haydon said Hassan had come to Britain in 2015 through “clandestine means” in the back of a lorry and told immigration officials he was 16 and from Iraq.
He told them he was “forced to train alongside Islamic State” before being placed with foster parents and assigned a mentor, he said.
“As a result of those concerns, he was referred to the Prevent programme in Surrey which is a multi-agency team which looks at de-radicalising and support.”
Hassan’s “devious nature” came into play, the senior officer said, adding: “On the one hand he was appearing to engage with that programme but he kept secret what he was planning and plotting so we describe him as a lone actor.”
He said a review had been commissioned around Surrey Prevent and the findings would be shared with “all the partners involved and committed to working through and implementing any necessary recommendations”.
On the dangers of extremists coming into Britain under the guise of seeking asylum, Mr Haydon said cases like Hassan’s were “rare”.
“We work with national partners and various agencies here in relation to all British nationals we believe have travelled to conflict zones and there is a plan in place for each of them if they ever do come back to the UK.
“If there is evidence they have been involved in criminality and terrorism then they may be prosecuted and pushed through the justice system.
“In this case, it is quite rare that a terrorist such as Hassan claims asylum in this way and claims he has been forced to train alongside IS.”
Mr Haydon said the speed of Hassan’s arrest within 24 hours of the attack was the product of a “collective response” and “good detective work”.
The court had heard how Hassan sourced two out of the three chemicals he needed to make TATP through Amazon and followed a step-by-step online guide to making the bomb timer.
Mr Haydon said: “Police, various security services, agencies and the government are constantly engaging with various internet companies and looking at how such companies can get better at reporting, but also how we can put regulation – the question do we need more regulation – around the purchase of precursor chemicals.
Ahmed Hassan’s victim’s speak out
Terrified commuters ran from a fireball as Ahmed Hassan’s bucket bomb exploded during the morning rush hour.
Twenty-three people suffered burns in the attack, while 28 were injured in the crush as people rushed away from the site of the explosion.
Clothes were melted and hair singed as a “rolling fireball” ripped through the carriage of the District line Tube train shortly before 8.20am on September 15, just after it arrived into Parsons Green station.
Other victims suffered broken ribs and bruising in the stampede to get away from the scene.
One woman told how her hair, freshly hairsprayed that morning, was set alight straight away.
Aimee Colville had just stepped on to the train seconds before she heard a bang, followed by a shudder “and then a wall of glass came across”.
She said: “That morning I had curled my hair and I had put hairspray in my hair so when the flames came over me my hair immediately caught fire.”
Lucinda Glazebrook suffered serious burns and felt her hair “coming out in chunks”.
Tearfully, she said: “I couldn’t see it but I felt the heat from the fireball so I was scared of the damage that it had done to my face.”
Ann Stuart said her head was on fire in the wake of the blast while her hands, face and mouth were left “scalded”.
Alex Beavan, a retired counter-terrorism officer, and off-duty soldier Craig Palmer, trained in handling explosives, both happened to be there that morning.
Army officer Mr Palmer, who was on the opposite end of the train, described a “wall of faces in terror who rushed past me”.
Mr Beavan, who saw “a rolling fireball coming over the ceiling at the back of the train” took cover behind a wall amid the “chaos”, for fear there may be a second attack.
Commuter Stephen Nash said he had been knocked out after a “blinding flash”.
He said: “I was thrown to the ground. The flames were overwhelming. It was intense heat. I thought I had lost my ears. I thought my head was on fire.”
Daniel Prieto, who suffered burns to his neck and ear, as well as singed eyebrows, recalled having to help put out the flames for a man whose leg was on fire.
“So a bit like SAR, the banking system Suspicious Activity Reporting, looking at something similar with internet companies and how they self-report.
“There are various measures in place around reporting but also the work we do with those companies trying to flag and identify suspicious purchases.”
His trial at the Old Bailey heard he told a college mentor that it was his “duty to hate Britain”, and from others that he blamed this country and America for the death of his father in Iraq.
The court also heard that while in the care of Barnardo’s children’s charity, he was caught listening to an Arabic song with a call to bring slaughter to people’s homes.
He was also seen to look at a picture of balaclava-clad fighters holding machine guns and the black IS flag.