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Terror plotter scouted sites on same day as Prevent deradicalisation meeting

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A Muslim convert was going through a Prevent radicalisation programme while plotting a terror attack in central London, a court has heard.

Lewis Ludlow pleaded guilty last year to plotting to kill up to 100 people in a “ram attack”. He had been carrying out reconnaissance of targets around London, including Madame Tussauds and Oxford Street.

At his sentencing hearing today, the Old Bailey heard Ludlow, 27, had appeared to engage with a programme to stop his radicalisation, going to 16 meetings over the court of six months before he was arrested in April 2018.

An image found on Lewis Ludlow's phone of Oxford Street
Image:
An image found on Lewis Ludlow’s phone of Oxford Street

One of the meetings was the same day as Ludlow took his trip around London, photographing some of his potential attack sites.

The former Royal Mail worker, from Rochester in Kent, was filled with “animosity and hatred” when he swore allegiance to Islamic State, the court heard.

The police matched the notebook he was seen writing in to the letters discarded in a bin
Image:
The police matched the notebook he was seen writing in to the letters discarded in a bin

He called himself “The Eagle” and “The Ghost”, bought a phone under a false name and wrote down his attack plans, which were late found ripped up in a bin.

He was arrested at Heathrow Airport as he attempted to board a flight to the Philippines, where he had been funding IS fighters.

Mark Heywood, prosecuting, said the Prevent programme had tried to engage with Ludlow since November 2008, when his college had raised concerns about his religious belief and that he had been carrying a knife.

Another image of Oxford Street found on Ludlow's phone
Image:
Another image of Oxford Street found on Ludlow’s phone

Two years later he attended a demonstration led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) group.

He was pictured with convicted terrorist Trevor Brooks and had secret communication with British jihadist Junaid Hussain, who was killed in a drone strike in Syria.

In June 2015, he talked with Hussain about doing something before he went abroad and discussed his job in the Royal Mail.

Lewis Ludlow (right) with Trevor Brooks (left)
Image:
Lewis Ludlow (right) with Trevor Brooks (left)

He said: “At my job at a Royal Mail warehouse we had a book that mentions how staff look out for suspicious items like bombs.

“I’m thinking should I find this info out more as Royal Mail rarely check items. It is perfect to send something lethal through.”

A letter found in a bin with the headline crowded London areas
Image:
A letter found in a bin with the headline ‘crowded London areas’

Hussain told him it was a “good idea” and Ludlow promised he would “look into it”.

He was arrested in 2015 and IS material was found on his phone, but no further action was taken.

Ludlow had cut off contact with Prevent but started going back to meetings in November 2017, all the while seeming to hide his real feelings.

In February, he planned to fly to the Philippines but he was stopped at the airport and his passport was seized.

A handwritten letter found in bin detailing the costs of hotels near Oxford Street and van rental, for a planned attack on London

In March, he sent money to an alleged extremist called Abu Yaqeen in an area of the Philippines with a significant IS presence.

Police went on to recover torn up scraps of paper from Ludlow’s bin which detailed potential attack sites in Britain. On Oxford Street, he wrote about using a van and mounting the pavement, noting the lack of safety barriers.

He said: “Wolf should either use a ram attack or use … on the truck to maximise death … it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack. It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack.”

A handwritten letter found in bin detailing potential targets in London, including Madame Tussauds and St Pauls Cathedral

Mr Heywood told the court there was evidence Ludlow would recruit a second attacker, as he did not have a driving licence and was “scared” of crashing.

On 13 April, Ludlow’s mobile phone was retrieved from a storm drain and police found videos of him swearing allegiance to IS.

In one video, Ludlow said: “I, the Eagle, have pledged allegiance to Dawlatul Islam and also, this is a little message to you people, there is no love between us, there is nothing between us except animosity and hatred.”

A handwritten letter found in bin detailing potential targets in London

Ludlow’s lawyer Rebecca Trowler said he was being directed by the extremist in the Philippines and described his plans as “embryonic”.

Ludlow, who converted to Islam at the age of 16, told the court he was bullied for nine years at school.

He said: “I was a loner. I was on my own and it was sad. People would say they found me too strange.

“It was really depressing. I felt everyone hated me and I thought I would be better off dead.”

A picture of Madame Tussaud's found on Lewis Ludlow's phone
Image:
A picture of Madame Tussaud’s found on Lewis Ludlow’s phone

He described feelings of anxiety, and said pictures of death, graves, and worms came into his head.

He said he found ALM online and was invited to demonstrations, saying at first it was “friendly” and he was seen as “funny”.

However after two years, Ludlow was suspected of being a spy.

The sentencing hearing is due to last for up to three days in front of Judge Nicholas Hilliard.

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