UK convert who plotted Sri Lanka-type blasts jailed for life

Safiyya Shaikh

A Briton who converted to Islam and later plotted to bomb three busy places in London of the kind carried out in a Sri Lanka church in 2019, was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment, Scotland Yard said following a judgement in the widely-followed case.

Safiyya Shaikh (born Michelle Ramsden), 37, will serve a minimum of 14 years before she is considered for parole for the plot to carry out terror attacks at a London train station, a hotel and the St Paul’s Cathedral, besides disseminating terrorist material online. She had pleaded guilty in February.

Commander Richard Smith of the Counter-Terrorism Command said: “This case is a stark reminder that the threat from terrorism remains as real as ever. As the lockdown restrictions ease and our public spaces start to open up again, it is vital that the public remains vigilant and reports anything suspicious to police – we need your help.”

Shaikh was arrested on October 10, 2019 following a joint Scotland Yard and MI5 investigation. She believed one of the officers, with whom she spoke online, would be able to help her obtain explosives.

She gave another undercover officer two bags, which she hoped would be converted into bombs. She told an undercover officer how she planned to leave one of these bombs inside St Paul’s Cathedral and another in a nearby hotel. She talked about setting off the third – in the form of a suicide vest – at a train station.

“Shaikh told the undercover officer she wanted to carry out an attack like that in Sri Lanka in 2019, in which suicide bombers killed hundreds of people in hotels and at a church on Easter Sunday. Following her arrest, she admitted this plan in a police interview”, the Yard said.

The court was told that Shaikh converted to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of a Muslim family, but later sought out people online who had extremist views. In one message to an undercover officer, Shaikh declared that she “loved” to watch graphic terrorist videos.

Commander Smith added: “Shaikh was dedicated to her extremist beliefs. In addition to wanting to carry out her own sickening attack on UK soil, she hoped to inspire others to implement attack plans even after she had died. Thanks to the hard work of officers from both the Met Police and MI5, she is instead in jail”.