The Parsons Green bomber lied to officials about being kidnapped by Islamic State because he wanted to study in Britain to become the new David Attenborough, he has told jurors.
Iraqi asylum seeker Ahmed Hassan’s trial has heard that he arrived in October 2015 and went on to tell immigration officials he had been forced to train “to kill” by IS.
But he told jurors at the Old Bailey that he made up the story in order to get leave to remain in Britain so he could pursue his studies and become a wildlife photographer.
On September 15 last year, the 18-year-old planted 400g of homemade explosives and shrapnel on a District Line tube timed to go off when it reached Parsons Green.
Hassan was picked up at the port of Dover the following morning, and the media student told police he had made the bomb, which only partially exploded but left commuters with terrible burns, melting their clothes and singeing their hair.
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Giving evidence in his defence, Hassan told jurors he was never taken prisoner by IS.
Asked by Tim Moloney QC, defending: “Were you ever mistreated by Isis?”, he replied: “No. I have never had any contact with Daesh at all.”
Asked why he made up the story about being kidnapped, he said: “Because I came from a wealthy safe area in northern Iraq in Kurdistan and if I told the truth my only reason to leave the country was to further my studies … I felt I had to make up something strong.
“In the jungle in Calais people used to talk about these things and make up stories. I never came across a refugee who said he would tell the truth when he arrived in the country.
“I wanted to go to university and my ultimate goal was to become a wildlife photographer like David Attenborough.”
Hassan, who was living with foster parents in Sunbury, Surrey, told how he was born in Baghdad in Iraq but his mother died when he was young and his taxi driver father was killed in an explosion in 2006.
He moved to northern Iraq with his uncle and older brother and from the age of 12 worked ferrying goods like vegetables across the border with Iran.
The defendant said he decided to leave Iraq because he wanted “a better life” and smuggled himself to Britain by train and on a lorry at the age of 16.
After he began a course at Brooklands College in Weybridge, Hassan would snap pencils in class when he felt “angry” and spent three days in hospital because he “considered to commit suicide”, the court heard.
But he told jurors he enjoyed studying photography, saying: “I enjoyed being behind the camera rather than in front of the camera.”
The court was shown a series of pictures taken by Hassan, some of deer in Richmond Park, West London.
As a “secret” sideline, Hassan said he sold mobile phones online making £100 a week.
He said it felt “good to be nominated” when he won student of the year in June 2017, adding he took the same title six years in a row in Iraq.
He has continued his studies while in prison so his “academic year is not wasted”, he said.
Hassan has denied attempted murder and using the chemical compound TATP to cause an explosion that was likely to endanger life.