A Muslim convert who became the UK’s first woman to plot a suicide bomb attack told an undercover officer she wanted to ‘blow St Paul’s Cathedral to the ground’ and ‘shoot’ visitors, a court has heard.
Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a 37-year-old mother from Hayes in West London, said wanted to ‘destroy’ the historic monument and planned to use her daughter’s non-Islamic clothes to avoid detection in an attack that was set to take place last Christmas.
But her plans were thwarted when she confided in an associate on a secret messaging app, unaware that he was working undercover.
Safiyya Shaikh’s sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey is underway. The mother from Hayes previously admitted to preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications on Telegram.
Shaikh, pictured in a traditional hijab, is thought to be Britain’s first solo female Isis bomb plotter
Shaikh, who was born Michelle Ramsden before converting to Islam in 2007, pleaded guilty to preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications on Telegram.
During a sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Monday, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC described Shaikh, appearing in the dock wearing a black hijab, as ‘a violent extremist who pledged her support for Islamic State’.
Ms Morgan said: ‘She engaged with others, who she believed to be of a similar mindset, to instigate and plan a terrorist attack involving the use of improvised explosives to attack St Paul’s Cathedral and a hotel nearby.
Shaikh, who had to ask an undercover officer the date of the September 11 terror attacks, planned to attack St Paul’s Cathedral last Christmas
Safiyya Amira Shaikh, 37, was born Michelle Ramsden and converted to Islam in 2007. A court has heard how she grew disillusioned by what she saw as the mosques’ moderate version of Islam
‘In furtherance of her attack plan, she visited the cathedral to assess its security arrangement and the best place to detonate a bomb.
‘She stated that her intention was to kill herself and as many other people as possible.’
The court heard that Shaikh travelled to central London on September 7, 2019, ready to attend morning prayers at St Paul’s the next day in order to scope out security protocol and work out how to carry out her plan, with the ultimate aim of achieving martyrdom.
The court heard she confessed online: ‘I would like bomb (sic) and shoot til death.
Shaikh said she wanted to target St Paul’s Cathedral and ‘run and kill kuffar (non-Muslims) everywhere I see them until am shot down’
‘But if that not possible I do other way. Belt or anything. I just want a lot to die. InshaAllah.’
How Shaikh was snared by undercover officers
Safiyya Amira Shaikh was snared by undercover officers last year as she planned to plant two explosive devices in central London.
In encrypted chat with an undercover officer last August, she said that she would ‘rather die young and get to Jannah (paradise) quickest way possible’.
She also stated: ‘I always knows (sic) I wanted to do something big….killing one kafir (infidel) is not enough for me.’
Shaikh expressed a desire to target a church or somewhere ‘historical’ on a day like Christmas or Easter to ‘kill more’, according to the case summary.
In September last year, she revealed her plan to stay in a hotel near St Paul’s then check out the cathedral and ‘take photos like a tourist’.
On September 24 last year, she met the fake explosive expert’s wife in Uxbridge to hand over her bags.
Then on October 13, the female undercover officer cancelled a second meeting and police forced their way into Shaikh’s flat to arrest her.
She said the plot was the ‘best opportunity of my life’, and described to the undercover officer how she could borrow her daughter’s non-Islamic clothes in an effort to avoid suspicion.
Shaikh said there was little attention from security during her reconnaissance visit, which lasted around an hour, telling the undercover officer: ‘This most famous church to King and Queen. All there (sic) weddings been there hundreds of years.
‘I really thought it would not be possible. But it easy.’
She added: ‘I want do something in hotel and church. Than (sic) run and kill kuffar (non-Muslims) everywhere I see them until am shot down.
‘Is this possible. And to get weapons.
‘If I had choice I blow the church to ground. With kuffar in it.’
The court heard that Shaikh – who would go on to ask the undercover officer the date of the September 11 terror attacks – had converted to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of a local Muslim family.
But she became increasingly disillusioned by what she saw as the mosques’ moderate version of Islam.
The attack was initially intended to be carried out at Christmas that year, but was then put off until Easter to give her time to ‘sort everything’.
On September 24 last year, she met the associate’s wife – also an undercover officer – in Uxbridge to hand over her bags, believing they could be fashioned into explosives.
Then, on October 13, the female undercover officer cancelled a second meeting and police forced their way into Shaikh’s flat to arrest her.
In police interview, the defendant, who claimed benefits, admitted posting extremist material and the plot, although she said she may not have gone through with it.
The sentencing hearing continues.