St Paul’s Cathedral bomb plotter given life

|News, Terrorism

A woman who scoped out St. Paul’s Cathedral in preparation for a suicide bomb attack has been given a life sentence today and must serve at least 14 years before she can be considered for release.

Safiyya Shaikh, 37, planned to collect two bags containing bombs from someone she had been talking to online and who she thought shared her support for Daesh and violent jihad.

Shaikh planned to detonate one bomb at the famous London landmark in order to kill herself and visitors. She planned to use the other device at the hotel where she would have stayed ahead of the act. The attacks were planned for Easter this year.

A photo taken by Shaikh on 8 September 2019 during her visit to St Paul's Cathedral and sent to undercover officers
Photo taken by Shaikh on 8
September 2019 during her
visit to St Paul's Cathedral and
sent to undercover officers

Unknown to her, the online extremists who she thought were a husband and wife, were actually undercover officers. She told them by secure message: “I really would love to destroy that place and the kaffir [unbelievers] there.”

She had also been in touch with other extremists in Europe who she had tried to meet up with.

She pleaded guilty to terrorism offences on 21 February and had been kept in custody ahead of her sentencing today (3 July).

Jenny Hopkins, from the CPS said: “Safiyya Shaikh chose to live her life as a violent extremist with a murderous hatred of those who did not share her twisted version of Islam.

“She hoped to inspire others by sharing terrorist images on social media but wanted to go much further.

“The damning evidence presented by the CPS of her planned suicide mission to St. Paul’s Cathedral left her with no room to talk her way out the charges.”

Police passed evidence to the CPS of Shaikh going into St. Paul’s on 8 September and sending photos and videos from inside the building to the undercover contact. She also described the security at the cathedral.

She was secretly filmed handing over two bags to the “wife” at a park in Uxbridge on 24 September. The plan was for the bags to be returned to her at a later date with working bombs inside. The police raided her flat and arrested her on 10 October.

Shaikh, from Hayes, in west London, pleaded guilty to sharing terrorist material with others via the Telegram messenger app with the intention of encouraging others to commit terrorist acts. This included images of a bomb exploding on Tower Bridge and of a Tube platform with a message to Muslims to fight non-believers.

Shaikh was prosecuted by the Counter Terrorism Division of the CPS which presented evidence of Shaikh’s contact with the undercover officers from 20 August last year. On that day she told them, “…I rather die young and get Jannah [paradise] quickest way possible…we love death they love life…I always knows [sic] I wanted do something big…killing one kafir [unbeliever] is not enough for me.”

On Telegram, at the same time, she praised Daesh, encouraged the killing of civilians throughout the world, and provided suggestions on different ways to carry out an attack. Using evidence gathered by the police the CPS was able to prove that Shaikh personally created, or instructed others to create violent images, and then circulated them.

Shaikh was born Michelle Ramsden to a non-Muslim family. During police interviews she explained that she “reverted” to Islam in 2007. She became disillusioned by what she saw as the moderate version of Islam she found at local mosques. She began to read, follow and talk to extremists online. By around 2015 she had come to accept their extremist beliefs.

Notes to editors

  • Safiyya Amira Shaikh (DOB 25/05/1983) pleaded guilty to:
    • Preparation of terrorist acts, contrary to section 5 of the Terrorism Act 2006. She received a life sentence with a 14 year minimum tariff
    • Dissemination of terrorist publications, contrary to section 2 of the Terrorism Act 2006. She received eight years to run concurrently with the previous sentence
  • She was arrested on 10 October 2019 at her flat and pleaded guilty to both counts on 21 February 2020
  • Jenny Hopkins is head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division in the CPS.

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