Terrorist said he had changed his ways three days before atrocity, inquest told

Sudesh Amman was shot by police after his knife rampage (PA) (PA Wire)
16:31pm, Wed 04 Aug 2021
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A convicted terrorist told a mentor he had changed his ways, days before carrying out a high street knife rampage which ended in him being shot dead by police, an inquest has heard.

Sudesh Amman, 20, confided how he “now realised” that those who committed terrorist acts ended up “pushing people away” from Islam.

Amman, from Coventry and of Sri Lankan heritage, made the comments on January 30 2020, three days before he stole a knife and ran down a south London street stabbing randomly at members of the public before being fatally brought to a halt.

An inquest into Amman’s death at the Royal Courts of Justice heard Amman had been provided with support from both a practical and a theological mentor, both of whom had met with him following his release from prison earlier in January.

CCTV footage of Sudesh Amman walking along Streatham High Road on the day of the attack (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

The pair described being “shocked” and “gobsmacked” when they realised they knew the man responsible for the atrocity, on Streatham High Road, on February 2.

A report prepared by Witness M following his final meeting, read by Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, said: “He (Amman) said he now realised that people who hurt other people through things like acts of terror were pushing people away from the faith and causing hatred.”

Giving evidence to the inquest on Wednesday, Witness M said Amman had been “the most relaxed that I’d seen him” in all of their previous four face-to-face chats, both in prison and out.

Witness M said: “He was happy to talk, he had no moments where he held back from saying anything and he seemed happy and relieved at being released.

“I took him at his word. He seemed sincere the way he was saying it.”

Asked by Mr Hough if Amman had been “plausible”, Witness M replied: “Yes, I believe he was.”

Police conduct a finger tip search following the terror attack in Streatham High Road (Aaron Chown/PA) (PA Archive)

He added he did not feel the need to report any behaviour of concern about Amman but had later felt “shocked” after reports of the attack emerged.

Witness M said: “I saw when it said the incident was in Streatham, I knew I visited him, I hoped it wasn’t (him).

“I kept watching the news and I had a little bit of disbelief, to be honest.”

A second mentor, known only as Witness T to protect his identity, said his duty was to discuss religious matters with Amman during their only meeting, on January 29 2020.

A report prepared for Witness T ahead of that meeting raised a number of concerns with Amman, including over his “mindset”, his potential for indoctrination, and his need for status.

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

Following that meeting, Witness T described how Amman revealed himself to be “ignorant” of Islam, but said he had “kept to himself” in the week since his release from prison to a Streatham probation hostel in case people believed he was radicalising others.

Witness T agreed with Mr Hough that Amman’s background of offending and behaviour in prison meant he presented as “quite a tough case”.

However, Witness T said he did not get the impression that Amman was being insincere.

Witness T said he learned of Amman’s atrocity on the day it happened, leaving two people injured.

“I was gobsmacked, I was shocked, I was surprised,” he told the inquest.

His probation officer, Leon Campbell, flagged Amman’s risk of serious harm to the public ahead of his release from prison, and said he did not take at face value claims Amman made later that he no longer had an extremist mindset.

He told the inquest: “I did believe there were elements of him telling me what I wanted to hear.”

Mr Campbell said Amman would frequently “shutdown” when challenged over certain things such as his offending history.

He said he feared “local gangs” approaching him and police following him in Streatham, so said he would stay in his room.

Sudesh Amman’s probation hostel in Streatham, south London, where he lived for ten days following his release from prison (Metropolitan Police/PA) (PA Media)

Mr Campbell said the first he heard of the atrocity was when he finally took a phone call from Amman’s mother while out with his family after he had ignored her previous repeated attempts to contact him.

He said: “She was crying down the phone.

“I recall her saying: ‘Is it him, is it him?’

“But I had no idea.”

Amman was automatically released from Belmarsh prison on January 23, part-way through his 40-month sentence for preparing and engaging in acts of terrorism.

The inquest previously heard how prison intelligence suggested he had made threats to kill the Queen, to commit a terrorist act, and radicalise others.

The inquest was adjourned until Thursday.

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