A convicted terrorist who went on a knife rampage in south London that ended with him being shot dead by police told a mentor just days before that he had changed his ways, an inquest has heard.
Sudesh Amman, 20, was shot dead by police after he ran up Streatham High Road on 2 February 2020 randomly stabbing members of the public and injuring two people.
Amman, from Coventry and of Sri Lankan heritage, had been recently released from prison part way through a 40-month sentence for preparing and engaging in acts of terrorism.
An inquest into his death has been taking place at the Royal Courts of Justice and on Wednesday it heard he had been provided with support from both a practical and a theological mentor when he was released from Belmarsh prison in January.
Three days before the knife attack he indicated he was no longer a risk, telling his mentors that he realised that those who committed terrorist acts ended up “pushing people away” from Islam.
The two mentors – known in court as Witness M and Witness T – described being “shocked” and “gobsmacked” when they realised they knew the man responsible for the violent attacks.
A report prepared by Witness M, read by Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, said: “[Amman] said he now realised that people who hurt other people through things like acts of terror were pushing people away from the faith and causing hatred.”
Giving evidence to the inquest on Wednesday, Witness M said Amman had been “the most relaxed that I’d seen him” in all of their previous four face-to-face chats, both in prison and out. Witness M added: “I took him at his word. He seemed sincere the way he was saying it.”
The second mentor, Witness T, said his duty was to discuss religious matters with Amman during their only meeting, on 29 January 2020. He said he was very surprised when he learned of the attacks. “I was gobsmacked, I was shocked, I was surprised,” he told the inquest.
Amman’s probation officer, Leon Campbell, flagged Amman’s risk of serious harm to the public ahead of his release from prison and said he did not take at face value claims Amman made later that he no longer had an extremist mindset.
He told the inquest: “I did believe there were elements of him telling me what I wanted to hear.”
He went on to describe how he first he heard of the atrocity when he took a phone call from Amman’s mother while out with his family after he had ignored her previous repeated attempts to contact him. He said: “She was crying down the phone. I recall her saying: ‘Is it him, is it him?’”
So high was the concern among counter-terrorism officials about the risk Amman might have still posed that on his release he was put under surveillance. Concerns then mounted further and on 29 January officers trailing him were authorised to carry firearms.
Two days later Amman entered a Poundland and bought items including a roll of brown tape, aluminium foil and some bottles of Irn-Bru, some of which he used to make the fake bomb belt.
Det Supt Dominic Murphy previously told the inquest that on the day of the attack Amman was being trailed by one officer on a motorcycle, some in cars and some on foot.
The inquest also previously heard how prison intelligence suggested he had made threats to kill the Queen, to commit a terrorist act, and radicalise others.
The inquest was adjourned until Thursday.