09 August 2021

Streatham operation ‘could not have been more effective’, inquest hears

09 August 2021

The undercover police operation which resulted in terrorist Sudesh Amman being shot dead in broad daylight after going on a minute-long stabbing rampage “could not have achieved a more effective result”, a senior officer said.

The Strategic Firearms Commander (SFC), a superintendent responsible for the firearms strategy on the day 20-year-old Amman struck, said tactics used at the time were the correct course of action.

It also emerged that the Tactical Firearms Commander (TFC) on the operation was not told Amman had left his probation hostel and was spotted with a white JD Sports bag slung over his torso, around half an hour before he struck.

The bag was used to conceal a fake suicide belt, fashioned from items he bought at Poundland two days earlier.

Amman was under round-the-clock armed surveillance when he stole a kitchen knife from a shop on Streatham High Road, south London, and began stabbing members of the public at random, shortly before 2pm on Sunday February 2 2020.

Both victims survived.

Sudesh Amman walking along Streatham High Road with the JD Sports bag over his torso concealing a fake suicide belt (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

The SFC, known only as BX88 to protect his identity, defended police actions at Amman’s inquest on Monday.

He said: “In the context of an armed operation, one person lost his life and others were injured.

“I have reflected a great deal and I have to say, I have been back through this in my mind from a personal perspective, I don’t see how we could have achieved a more effective result with the circumstances presented to us.

“I know that sounds harsh because Amman lost his life.

“We were responding to his actions, and his actions were attempting to kill people.”

It comes after the senior officer investigating Amman at the time denied suggestions from his family’s lawyer that the undercover operation was a “massive failure”.

CCTV footage of Sudesh Amman running along Streatham High Road as he stabbed passers-by (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

It further emerged on Monday that the TFC, known only as DS51, was not told about the Poundland purchases, nor was she informed Amman left his hostel, or that he had been displaying anti-surveillance behaviour.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, said logs from the day showed an officer tried to contact DS51 a couple of minutes after Amman emerged from his hostel, but they could not get through to her so left a voicemail.

DS51 said she was likely talking to officers on a second, unrelated operation at the time, adding: “I never had a missed call or a voicemail.”

She said she would have wanted “a bit more context” about the sports bag around Amman’s torso, but said it was “not unusual” to see young people in London wearing the bag in such a way in London.

DS51 said she would have asked the surveillance officers questions about Amman’s presentation had she known he was entering a shop known to sell knives, and was in “total disbelief” when she heard Amman had been killed after attacking members of the public.

She said: “I wasn’t aware of the time he had been out of the approved premises.

“I was shocked that he had stabbed members of public and had subsequently been shot by police.”

Sudesh Amman stabbed two people before being killed (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Wire)

The inquest previously heard how Amman was deemed to be “one of the most dangerous individuals” that police and MI5 teams had investigated, and that police feared an attack would be “when, not if” during discussions a fortnight ahead of his release.

He was automatically released from Belmarsh prison on January 23, part-way through a 40-month sentence for obtaining and disseminating terrorist materials.

This was despite police pleas to the governor to detain Amman for longer after intelligence suggested he maintained an extremist mindset, wanted to carry out a knife attack in the future, and pledged allegiance to the leader of so-called Islamic State.

Amman, who is originally from Coventry and of Sri Lankan descent, but was previously of Harrow in north-west London, spent his short time after being released from custody living in a bail hostel in Streatham, during which time undercover police teams monitoring him remarked on his “concerning” behaviour.

The inquest continues.

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