A convicted terrorist who went on a knife rampage wearing a fake bomb belt within days of his release from jail was shot dead by officers following him, an inquest has heard.
Police had tried to block the release of Sudesh Amman, 20, because of intelligence that he wanted to stage an attack. He was in prison for terrorism offences.
Days after his release, on 2 February, 2020, he staged a 62-second attack in Streatham, south London, wearing a fake suicide bomb belt, while he was being followed by armed surveillance officers.
Det Supt Dominic Murphy told the inquest that Amman was arrested in May 2018 on suspicion of preparing and engaging in acts of terrorism.
He was sentenced to 40 months’ imprisonment, but the law at the time meant he was automatically released halfway through his sentence, on 23 January 2020.
Murphy told the inquest that a search of Amman’s jail cell at Belmarsh prison before his release turned up handwritten notes in Arabic which “appeared to show loyalty” to Islamic State, which incited a string of attacks against Britain and other western nations and targets.
Days before his release, Murphy said police were informed that Amman told a fellow inmate that he was “not finished with these non-believers yet”.
So high was the concern among counter-terrorism officials that on his release he was put under surveillance. Concerns then mounted further, so that 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.
On the day of the attack, Murphy said Amman was being trailed by one officer on a motorcycle, some in cars and some on foot. Murphy added that the terrorist left his bail hostel around half an hour before the attack. “The officers reported he was walking very slowly, apparently aimlessly,” he told the inquest.
The coroner, Mr Justice Hilliard, said: “By 1.50pm, he [Amman] was walking very slowly. He had a white bag across his chest. He was under surveillance by four officers on foot, and other officers were in vehicles on a surrounding road. At 1.57, Mr Amman entered a general shop … which sold, amongst other things, knives.”
Murphy said Amman was inside the Low Price Store for “less than a minute”, during which time he grabbed a kitchen knife from a display. He ran outside at 1.57.
Murphy said: “As he left the shop, he was tearing the knife out of the packaging. There was one particular surveillance officer who volunteered to go into the store to have a look at what Amman was doing inside. He was around 20 metres away when he volunteered to go and saw Sudesh Amman run out of the shop.”
Amman sprinted up Streatham High Road, armed with the knife, pursued by two surveillance officers, referred to as BX87 and BX75.
The inquest heard that “within seconds” he had stabbed a woman in the back outside the White Lion pub. Amman then stabbed a man by Cash Converters, striking him in the right of his torso.
Murphy said both officers broke cover and shouted at Amman to stop and again shouted to identify themselves as armed police. Officer BX75 fired a shot that struck a shop window, which shattered and hit a woman standing nearby.
Murphy added that Amman eventually stopped outside a Boots store and then turned to face both officers before moving towards them. “Both were shouting at him to drop the knife and, having received no response, both officers opened fire on him,” he said. Officer BX87 fired three shots and officer BX75 fired two.
The inquest jury heard that Amman suffered gunshot wounds to the neck and abdomen, but officers then noticed he appeared to be wearing an improvised explosive device round his waist.
It was declared as posing no danger shortly afterwards, and Amman was declared dead within two hours of being shot.
Amman, originally from Coventry in the West Midlands, was of Sri Lankan heritage, the inquest was told.
The inquest, which is scheduled to last for three weeks, continues.
This article first appeared in The Guardian