Jihadi Jack: Father of Muslim convert who joined Isis told police his son ‘wouldn’t hurt a tree’

Lizzie Dearden

The father of a Muslim convert who joined Isis told police his son would not “hurt a tree”, a court has heard.

Jack Letts’ parents are accused of attempting to send him more than £1,700 despite it being “clear from the information available to them” that he was in the terrorist group’s Syrian territories.

The Old Bailey heard that the couple had been warned about Jack’s radicalisation after he converted to Islam aged 16, but bought him a plane ticket for a “grand adventure” in the Middle East.

In March 2015, police visited his parents’ Oxford home and issued a formal warning that they risked prosecution if they sent their son money or property.

In a statement given to officers, his father John Letts said he had enjoyed a good relationship with his “very personable, engaging and humorous” son.

Mr Letts, 58, said that as a youngster Jack had aspirations to be an artist or footballer but lost focus on his A-levels because of his obsessive compulsive disorder.

“He had a phase being obsessed with football and would sleep next to his football,” he added.

“The same thing happened with religion … he would read all things to do with Islam. Jack would want to outdo people. If he was to attempt something he would have to try to be the best at it.”

Mr Letts told how Jack’s old friends faded away and he gathered new associates from a mosque who would occasionally visit the family home.

He claimed his son had been “very much a pacifist” and would not even “hurt a tree”, but became upset over the Syrian civil war and the suffering of its people.

Mr Letts told police Jack went to Jordan because he was keen to learn Arabic, but the court previously heard that he was warned over his son’s radicalisation.

Anwar Belhimer, a friend of Jack’s from the mosque, told Mr Letts that Jack had been using extreme language and appeared to have been radicalised by others, including a man called Abdullah.

Mr Belhimer urged him to confiscate his son’s passport and told Jack that he would not help the Syrian people by fighting, but Jack left the UK in May 2014, aged 18.

About four months after the departure, John Letts learnt from his wife, Sally Lane, that their son had in fact moved on to Syria, the court heard.

Mr Letts told police that the teenager became more “reserved” in communications and stopped telling his parents that he loved them in phone calls.

But he claimed he had no reason to believe Jack had been involved in fighting, as his son had said he was not with Isis.

The court heard that in May 2015 – two months after the parents were first interviewed by police – Jack posted a photo of himself on Facebook wearing combat fatigues while standing by a dam in Raqqa, Isis’s de-facto capital.

And in July of that year, he wrote on Facebook that he wanted to behead an old school friend and other soldiers in a “martyrdom operation”, a court has heard.

The jury was shown a photo of Jack Letts posing at the Tabqa Dam outside Raqqa (Facebook)

The jury was told that by the time his parents attempted the money transfers they were charged over, they knew Jack had married someone in Iraq and journeyed onwards into Isis territory.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said: “It was not open to these defendants to take the law into their own hands and to send money to their son, whatever their own reasons and motives may have been.”

The defendants, of Chiswell Road in Oxford, deny three charges of funding terrorism.

The trial continues.

Additional reporting by PA