A man found guilty of murder and attempted murder after he drove a van into worshippers near a north London mosque last year was Friday sentenced to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 43 years in jail.
During sentencing at Woolwich Crown Court here, Justice Cheema-Grubb described Darren Osborne as a dangerous man on “a suicide mission” who had been brainwashed by far-right extremist ideology in the lead up to the attack in June, 2017.
“This was a terrorist attack. You intended to kill. Your mindset became one of malevolent hatred. In short, you allowed your mind to be poisoned by those who claimed to be leaders,” the judge said.
The 48-year-old reacted to the sentencing from the dock with the words, “God bless you, thank you”.
He was found guilty by a jury on Thursday of the murder of Bangladeshi-origin Makram Ali and of the attempted murder of others at the scene.
Osborne, from Cardiff in Wales, was handed two life sentences on the charges, to be served concurrently which would mean he would effectively die in jail.
“Many of them (victims) were wearing distinctive Muslim dress. You had found your target. You accelerated the van towards them intending to kill as many people as you could,” the judge noted.
She also praised Mohammed Mahmoud, the ‘imam’ from the local Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park, who stepped in to save Osborne from being beaten up.
“This was a demonstration of true leadership…He chose to respond to evil with good,” the judge said.
Prosecutor Jonathan Rees read out a victim impact statement from Ruzina Akhtar, the daughter of 51-year-old Ali, who had rushed to his aid on the street outside their home in north London.
“I have suffered with recurring nightmares. The scene of the incident is near to our house. We walk past this most days and are constantly reminded,” she said.
Osborne used a rented van to target worshippers as they returned from prayers during the holy month of Ramadan, and the court was told that he wanted to kill as many Muslims as possible.
His trial was told that he had become radicalised after watching a BBC docudrama about a child-grooming scandal involving Pakistani-origin men in Rochdale and reading online content from far-right organisations such as ‘Britain First’.
“Your use of Twitter exposed you to racists and anti- Islamic ideology,” the judge told Osborne during sentencing.
Osborne had previously appeared before the courts on 33 occasions for 102 offences, making him a “belligerent and violent character” in the eyes of the law.
UK home secretary Amber Rudd reacted after Osborne’s conviction, saying that the government was determined to combat all forms of terrorism.
“We are continually adapting our approach to respond to the terrorist threat…We give parity to all terrorism regardless of ideology. I see no difference between a violent Islamist and a far-right terrorist. All terrorists must face the full force of the law,” she said in a statement.
Osborne’s attack came after three Islamist terrorist attacks in London and Manchester.
“I welcome the judge’s decision to sentence Osborne under the Terrorism Act, which reflects the gravity of his actions,” said Commander Dean Haydon, the Head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command.
On arresting Osborne on June 19 last year, Metropolitan Police officers had found various items in the van, including a hand-written note from him containing a monologue of his extremist views.
Through their enquiries, the Met Police believes that Osborne drove from Cardiff to London on June 18, 2017 with the intention of targeting the ‘al-Quds’ march, where he thought a large number of Muslim people would be present.
However, after arriving in London, Osborne was unable to access the march route with his vehicle.
At this point, it is believed that Osborne decided to change his plans and after driving to south London, where he asked for directions to mosques, he eventually ended up in Finsbury Park, north London.
After effectively carrying out a reconnaissance of the local area, he carried out the attack by ploughing his van into people heading for prayers at the mosque. PTI