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MI5 investigation into London Bridge attacker was 'well run', inquest hears

The Guardian logo The Guardian 12/06/2019 Vikram Dodd and Haroon Siddique
a truck is parked in front of a building: Thames House, the headquarters of MI5. London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt carried out the assault while he was under active investigation by MI5. © Reuters Thames House, the headquarters of MI5. London Bridge attacker Khuram Butt carried out the assault while he was under active investigation by MI5.

An MI5 review after the London Bridge attack said its investigation into the ringleader Khuram Butt was “well and effectively run”, an inquest has heard.

Butt, 27, launched the attack with two other terrorists in June 2017, killing eight civilians and seriously injuring 48 people, while he was under active investigation by the security service.

He had been under investigation by MI5 since 2015, although it was twice suspended – in February 2016 and March 2017 – due to lack of resources.

Read more: London Bridge attacker 'got job carrying out tube security checks' (The Guardian)

On Wednesday, the inquests into the eight victims heard from a senior MI5 chief known only as witness L. Giving evidence from behind a curtain he was asked by Jonathan Hough QC about the conclusions of a post-attack review by MI5. L replied that it “took the view that the investigation into Khuram Butt had been well and effectively run. It took the view that both of the suspensions were logical and proportional in the circumstances.”

L said “refinements” to the way MI5 investigates terrorist suspects introduced after June 2017, including closer cooperation with the police, would not have made a difference, had they been in place at the time.

L also denied a failure to share information with counter-terrorism police. Last week a senior counter-terrorism officer claimed a warning to the anti-terror hotline by Usman Darr, Butt’s brother-in-law, in 2015, was not passed on to the police. But asked by Hough whether considerations of security had prevented any information being passed on to the senior investigation officer in the Butt case, L replied: “No, I don’t believed that is so.”

Watch: Who are the victims of the London Bridge attacks? (The Independent)


He said that it was “reasonably common” for investigations to be suspended and that police would not have been systematically consulted before such a decision was taken. When Hough asked whether police “might be informally consulted” L replied in the affirmative.

He told the court that there were currently 600 live investigations.

Butt was joined in the attack by Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22. At the time they all lived in east London. They first ploughed into pedestrians on London Bridge in a van, then ran through Borough market stabbing people with pink ceramic knives bought from a Lidl supermarket.

Watch: London Bridge attacker buys knives (Sky News)


The assault, which lasted for 10 minutes, only ended when the three attackers charged at armed police officers, who shot them down. At the inquest, lawyers for the families have said MI5 and police missed “opportunities galore” to stop the attack.

Butt is believed to be the first person to have killed on British soil while under active investigation by MI5 and counter-terrorism police. He was an acolyte of the extremist preacher Anjem Choudary, a long-term target of counter-terrorism investigators who himself was eventually jailed for urging support of Islamic State.

By 2017, Butt worked at the Ummah fitness centre in east London, where he regularly associated with the other two terrorists before the attack.

Watch: 'It does bring up raw emotion,' says mother of youngest victim (Sky News)


Those killed by Butt and his accomplices were Chrissy Archibald, 30, from Canada; Sébastien Bélanger, 36, a chef; Kirsty Boden, 28, a nurse from Australia; Ignacio Echeverría Miralles De Imperial, 39; James McMullan, 32,who was from Brent, north-west London; Alexandre Pigeard, 26, a French restaurant worker; Xavier Thomas, 45, a French national; and Sara Zelenak, 21, an Australian national.

The London Bridge attack was one of four terrorist atrocities the UK endured between March and June 2017. A review into the attacks for the government by the barrister David Anderson QC said: “The unpalatable lesson of London Bridge is that even priority subjects of interest in respect of whom sound decisions are being made … may retain the ability to conceal their attack planning from the authorities.”

The inquest, which is testing those conclusions, continues.


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