Terrorist released from jail despite fears over ‘extremist views’, inquest told

·5-min read

Homegrown terrorist Sudesh Amman was released from prison despite concerns he “retained extremist views” and had apparently signalled his intent to strike again once in the community, his inquest has heard.

Police were so concerned about 20-year-old Amman’s apparently unrepentant behaviour in Belmarsh that they asked the prison governor not to release him.

However, the request was turned down because the offence Amman was jailed for could not justify an extension of his sentence, his inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice heard.

Amman was subsequently released and was under 24-hour surveillance when he ran into a shop, stole a kitchen knife, then went on a 62-second rampage along Streatham High Road in south London on February 2 2020.

He stabbed and injured two passers-by before he was shot and killed by armed police a minute later, while wearing a fake suicide vest.

Watch: CCTV shows Streatham terrorist moments before attack

Giving evidence at the inquest, Detective Superintendent Dominic Murphy said Amman was arrested in May 2018 on suspicion of preparing and engaging in acts of terrorism resulting from a Metropolitan Police investigation.

He was subsequently jailed for 40 months and was automatically released on January 23 2020, part-way through his sentence.

Mr Murphy told the inquest that a search of Amman’s prison cell previously found some hand-written notes in Arabic that “appeared to show loyalty” to so-called Islamic State.

Streatham terror attack
Items left on the pavement at the scene in Streatham High Road, south London (Victoria Jones/PA)

He also made a troubling comment to another prisoner in the days before his release into the community, the inquest heard.

Mr Murphy said: “He told another prisoner he was ‘not finished with these non-believers yet’, which was a direct quote.”

He also said Amman believed he had gained “celebrity status as the result of being a convicted terrorist”.

Upon release, Amman was under day-time surveillance by plain clothes officers between January 24 and 28 amid concerns he might commit another offence, and on January 29 a decision was made to allow those officers to carry firearms.

Sudesh Amman inquest
Sudesh Amman was killed in Streatham on February 2 2020 after stabbing members of the public (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Mr Murphy said surveillance operations were stepped up two days later after Amman was seen entering a number of shops and making “suspicious” purchases in Poundland, including a roll of brown tape, aluminium foil and some bottles of Irn-Bru.

Mr Murphy said: “We have, through experience on previous incidents, (found) that people have made fake suicide vests with similar purchases.”

Inquest jurors were shown images of Amman on the afternoon he struck, wearing a camouflage jacket and a red hood and a beanie hat, with grey traditional dress underneath his jacket.

He was carrying a white JD Sports bag across his torso.

Mr Murphy said Amman was under surveillance by nine officers on the afternoon of the attack – with one officer on a motorcycle, some in cars, and some on foot.

He added: “The officers reported he was walking very slowly, apparently aimlessly.”

Sudesh Amman inquest
Police officers conducting a fingertip search at the scene following the terror attack in Streatham (Aaron Chown/PA)

The coroner, High Court judge Mr Justice Hilliard, said an anonymous surveillance officer gave chase after Amman grabbed a 20cm kitchen knife from a shop display and ran with it along the high street at around 1.57pm.

Mr Justice Hilliard said Amman, who is originally from Coventry and of Sri Lankan descent, then began stabbing members of the public.

The coroner said: “As he ran and within a few seconds, Amman stabbed a lady in the back outside the White Lion public house.

“A few seconds later while still running, he stabbed a man by Cash Converters, in the right side of his torso.”

Mr Justice Hilliard said a second officer also joined the pursuit of Amman and shot at him.

The shot shattered a shop window, and Amman turned to face the two officers while still holding the knife, during which both officers opened fire.

The inquest jury heard Amman suffered wounds in the neck and abdomen, and was pronounced dead at 3.24pm.

Mr Murphy said there was “no indication” of any involvement from third parties, nor that he had breached any of his licence conditions prior to the attack.

Asked about the possible involvement of terror group IS, he replied: “There is no information to suggest any connection between Sudesh Amman and IS.

“It’s not unusual for [IS] to identify incidents that happen around the world and claim responsibility for them.

“That was the case here as far as we can tell.

Streatham terror attack
Police activity at the scene following the terror attack in Streatham High Road (Aaron Chown/PA)

“It was the result of [Amman] retaining an extremist mindset and we found no evidence to suggest that anyone else was involved in the planning of this attack.”

The inquest head evidence of Amman’s poor behaviour as a child, including allegedly pulling a sword and a gun on a class mate, although there was not enough evidence to prosecute him.

Detective chief inspector Luke Williams, from the Met’s counter terrorism unit, said he later accused social workers of calling him “a terrorist” and remarked that Great Britain “wasn’t so great” when being spoken to by the home offending team.

The coroner warned inquest jurors that some of the evidence may be graphic in nature.

The inquest, which is due to last for three weeks, was adjourned until Tuesday.

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