LONDON – A man who rapidly became fixated with Muslims was found guilty Thursday of murder, having deliberately driven a van into a group of worshippers near a London mosque.
Darren Osborne, 48, became radicalised over a month last year after watching a television programme about a child sex ring scandal involving a gang of mainly Muslim men in northern England.
Osborne, from Cardiff, was convicted of murdering 51-year-old Makram Ali and trying to kill others in the Finsbury Park area of north London on June 19.
Prosecutors said they were “clear throughout that this was a terrorist attack”.
Unemployed loner Osborne had pleaded not guilty, telling London’s Woolwich Crown Court that a man called “Dave” was driving at the time — a claim police denounced as a fabrication.
Witnesses recalled Osborne saying: “I’ve done my job, you can kill me now” and “at least I had a proper go” in the immediate aftermath of the attack.
After two weeks of evidence, the jury took one hour to find him guilty.
Intent to kill
Osborne, a father of four, had a history of depression and alcoholism and was living in a tent.
Osborne had watched the BBC drama “Three Girls”, aired on May 16, 17 and 18, which told the story of three victims of the Rochdale child abuse ring, and quickly grew angry at what he deemed as inaction over the scandal.
The May 22 Manchester suicide bombing and the June 3 London Bridge van attack and stabbing rampage further fuelled his obsession.
He began researching far-right material online, police said.
Osborne hired a van and drove to London intent on ploughing into a pro-Palestinian march, but was prevented from doing so by road closures.
He told his trial that he hoped to kill the leftist Labour opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn in the attack, as it would have been “one less terrorist off our streets”, while killing Labour London Mayor Sadiq Khan as well “would have been like winning the lottery”.
Osborne then drove around London looking for a target before heading to Finsbury Park, where worshippers were leaving a mosque and an Islamic centre after Ramadan evening prayers.
A crowd had gathered around Ali, who had collapsed in a sidestreet, and Osborne careered into them, killing Ali and wounding 12 others, including two who sustained life-changing injuries.
He tried to escape on foot but was floored by witnesses. A local imam prevented him from being badly beaten up by the crowd.
A handwritten note found in the van read: “Why are their terrorists on our streets today?
“Don’t people get it? This is happening up and down our green and pleasant land.
“Islam’s ideology doesn’t belong here and neither does sharia law.”
– Rapid self-radicalisation –
The Crown Prosecution Service said Osborne “planned and carried out this attack because of his hatred of Muslims”.
“He later invented an unconvincing story to counter the overwhelming weight of evidence,” said Sue Hemming from England’s state prosecutors.
“He must now face the consequences of his actions.”
He will be sentenced on Friday.
Dean Haydon, the head of Scotland Yard police headquarters’ Counter Terrorism Command, said the case demonstrated how individuals “can become radicalised really quickly”.
“Individuals can become hate-fuelled and decide to do an attack with something that’s very simple, very crude, unsophisticated,” he told reporters.
“That kind of phenomenon, certainly over the last year and beyond, is a concern for us.”
The police commander said that 30 percent of all referrals to the state’s Prevent deradicalisation programme came from non-Islamist domestic extremism, most of whom are extreme right-wing.
“They are an emerging threat,” he said. -AFP