The mother of a young Muslim convert dubbed Jihadi Jack has told jurors she was horrified when her son called to say: ‘Mum, I’m in Syria.’
Former fundraising officer Sally Lane, 56, and organic tenant farmer John Letts, 58, are on trial accused of sending or trying to send sums totalling £1,723 to their son even though they had every reason to believe he had joined ISIS.
Jack Letts was 18 when he left home in Oxford and travelled abroad, married the daughter of a high-ranking tribesman in Iraq and moved to Syria, jurors have heard.
Sally Lane, pictured with her husband John Letts, said she was horrified when their son, Jihadi Jack had called to tell her he was in Syria
Jihadi Jack reportedly posted he would like to kill his former school friend Linus Doubtfire who had joined the military
Asked how she felt about the post, Lane said: ‘Absolutely sick. It was so out of character. He had never said anything violent before. I just thought it didn’t sound like him’
His parents allegedly ignored repeated warnings that they faced prosecution if they tried to help their son while he was in ISIS territory.
Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Lane told jurors her son had initially gone to Jordan and Kuwait for study and tourism.
She said: ‘He seemed like he was enjoying himself, relaxing and enjoying the country.’
But on September 2 2014, phone records showed a flurry of calls.
Lane said: ‘That was the day I found out. Jack phoned me. I was alone in the house. It was just a very quick phone call. He said “Mum, I’m in Syria”.
‘I was horrified. I screamed at him, “How could you be so stupid? You will get killed. You will get beheaded”.’
Afterwards, Lane said she was ‘off work’ and thinking about going to Turkey as other parents had tried to do.
Jack Letts, who is said to suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, did not phone again until September 24. 2014.
Mother reveals how she spoke to Jihadi Jack’s wife for the first time
Jihadi Jack’s mother wept as she was asked questions about her son’s wife who she has never met.
Sally Lane was asked by her counsel Tim Moloney, QC, about ‘Asmaa’, who her son married while he was in the Middle East and hoped to have eight children with.
As Mr Moloney introduced the topic of marriage, Lane began to sob in the witness stand.
On 23 October Jack messaged his mother over Facebook saying: ‘Mum are you there? Asmaa would like to speak to you.’
A court usher passed Lane a single white tissue and she removed her glasses and dabbed her right eye.
The mother of two recalled: ‘They seemed to have quite a nice relationship, as well, he seemed to be sort of teasing her, the way he way he was with his girlfriends back home.
‘Asmaa was with him in that conversation also. I spoke to her as well, he passed over the phone and he would translate. So, the phone was going back and forth.’
Lane said: ‘That was the first time I heard from Jack after that first phone call on September 2.
‘He apologised for not having phoned since that call. He said he had been ill. He had been travelling.
‘He did not say exactly where he was. He tried to be reassuring, saying everything is fine. It’s a civilian area, it’s not a war zone.
‘Someone had looked after him when he was ill and not to worry.’
Defence lawyer Tim Moloney QC asked: ‘How did all that contact make you feel?’
Lane replied: ‘In the first few weeks, we did not know whether he was alive or dead. At least we were reassured he was alive. I had done a lot of reading up on what groups were there.’
She told jurors she had been worried that Syria had made her son’s ‘mental illness’ worse.
Jurors heard that the defendants’ home was first raided by police on March 31, 2015.
A month later, Lane attempted to use a £5,000 inheritance from her son’s grandfather ‘as a bribe’ to encourage him and his new wife Asmaa to get ‘somewhere safe’.
But on May 21, he posted a photograph of himself in Raqqa, Syria.
Meanwhile, the family continued to have ‘acrimonious’ religious and political debates.
The couple wanted to send cash to their son Jack Letts, known as Jihadi Jack, who had run away to Syria to join ISIS
Lane said: ‘It was a bit different when he is actually in the region rather than in our kitchen.’
On July 30, she said she felt ‘sick’ when her son appeared to threaten to behead an old school friend, Linus Doubtfire.
Mr Doubtfire had posted a picture on Facebook as he completed his Commando Artillery Course in the British Army.
Jack Letts commented: ‘I would love to perform a martyrdom operation in this scene.’
His mother told jurors: ‘I thought it was not him because it was a public post. Jack had told me that other people used his account.
‘Around this time also we were receiving false information. I received a message on an account saying he was dead, for instance.’
Letts, pictured, converted to Islam before going to the middle east and eventually crossing into Syria and joining ISIS
Asked how she felt about the post, Lane said: ‘Absolutely sick. It was so out of character. He had never said anything violent before. I just thought it didn’t sound like him.’
Earlier, the father of Jihadi Jack said he would never forgive himself if his son died in the Middle East and he did nothing to protect him, a court heard today.
John Letts, 58, claimed he was told by the police that no court in the land would convict him for helping his son get out of the war-torn region.
But their lawyers say counter-terrorism police had given the parents from Oxfordshire the ‘green light’ to send money to their radicalised son.
In a police interview on 5 January 2015, Letts said to DC Michael Neath: ‘So you know my preference, and I stated it to him, was that give yourself up to the British, but that is the hard bit, how to do that?
‘You’ve still got to go through the borders; you have still got to get somewhere safe.
‘In the meantime, you know you can’t sleep, this is the son that you nurtured, and it’s horrible.
‘It is like the greatest, the only useful thing I ever did in my life was having two children and one of them is right there you know like I said that stupid analogy, I think I said when you were there you know he’s on the train tracks with a blindfold on and earplugs in and, you’ve got to help him and you feel that you just have to act as a parent what can I do, what can I do?
The interview between Letts and DC Neath ran for an hour and a half after he had been arrested on suspicion of breaching terrorism legislation.
Wearing a green fleece and glasses, he explained his sense of joy when he was told by police, he was free to send funds to his son.
According to Letts he was told by Prevent Officer PC Rachel Mahon that ‘no court in the land would convict a parent for trying to protect his child and get a child out of a dangerous situation.
‘That’s what she said to me. I was flabbergasterdly (sic) happy; I had this massive sense of relief.
‘It’s like yes we can do it but with the support of the police, this is fantastic, I was so happy.
‘I was dancing about the place and I said well can I get that in writing and she said well it is official I passed it up the chain, I spoke to my you know its come from the, the main people are still on holiday, but the senior officer on duty has said that so it’s legitimate.’
But police told Lane and Letts the information they had been given on December 27 was wrong and they could not send money to their son.
Describing his feelings on learning this, Letts said it was ‘massively deflating and crushing.’
‘So, I am supposed to email him, Facebook him back and say oh sorry Jack, yeah sorry you got all worked up and excited that yes you are going to get out and we are going to help you get out.
‘In fact, the police have changed their minds well that is not exactly going to make him trust the authorities for one thing and give himself up to the British.’
The court heard Jihadi Jack had been an ‘A star’ pupil before spiraling into religious extremism after watching all of his schoolfriends go to university without him, a court heard.
Reflecting on his approach to his son’s radicalisation and plans to travel to Kuwait and Jordon, Letts said: ‘You know I was pretty stupid.’
Letts claimed he wanted to ‘channel’ his son after he had dropped out of education and became more religious.
He said he would drive his son to the mosque and cook him halal meat.
Letts claimed he was happy when Jihadi Jack began studying Arabic as it is ‘a beautiful language’.
John Letts and Sally Lane, of Chiswell Road, Oxford, deny three charges of entering into a funding arrangement for the purposes of terrorism.
The trial continues.