Jihadi Jack’s parents are found GUILTY of funding terrorism by sending money to their son in Syria

The parents of a Muslim convert dubbed Jihadi Jack have been spared jail after being found guilty of funding terrorism.

Organic farmer John Letts, 58, and former Oxfam fundraising officer Sally Lane, 57, refused to believe their 18-year-old son Jack had become a dangerous extremist when they allowed him to travel to Syria, the Old Bailey heard.

The couple, from Oxford, ignored repeated warnings he had joined Islamic State in the war-torn country and tried to send him cash despite being told not to three times by police.

They were today found guilty of funding terrorism by sending £223 to their son in Raqqa in September 2015. 

Despite trying to send £1,723 in total, they were acquitted of the same charge in December 2015 and the jury were unable to decide on the final charge in January 2016.   

They were sentenced to 15 months imprisonment suspended for 12 months at the Old Bailey. 

Jihadi Jack, who suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder, is currently believed to be imprisoned by militia in northern Iraq.  

John Letts and Sally Lane arriving at the Old Bailey ahead of the verdict today

John Letts and Sally Lane arriving at the Old Bailey ahead of the verdict today

John Letts and Sally Lane arriving at the Old Bailey ahead of the verdict today

A jury deliberated for nearly 20 hours to find the defendants guilty of one charge of funding terrorism in in September 2015 but not guilty of the same charge in December 2015.

Jurors were discharged after they were unable to decide on a third charge relating to an attempt to send money in January 2016.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said the Crown would not seek a retrial and asked for the charge to lie on file.

There were gasps in the public gallery but defendants made no reaction in the dock. 

The court had heard how Jack Letts left the family home in May 2014 and embarked on what his parents saw as a ‘grand adventure’ to learn Arabic in Jordan.

Jack Letts in Syria. His mother and father faced trial for allegedly funding terrorism

Jack Letts in Syria. His mother and father faced trial for allegedly funding terrorism

Jack Letts in Syria. His mother and father faced trial for allegedly funding terrorism

Before his departure, a friend of the teenager had tried to warn his parents about his growing extremism and urged them to confiscate his passport.

From Jordan, Jack Letts moved to Kuwait and married Asmaa, the daughter of a tribal elder, in Iraq before travelling on to Syria.

Jack Letts, also known as Jihadi Jack, in Raqqa

Jack Letts, also known as Jihadi Jack, in Raqqa

Jack Letts, also known as Jihadi Jack, in Raqqa

Lane told jurors she was ‘horrified’ when he rang her to say he was in Syria in September 2014.

She said: ‘I screamed at him, ‘How could you be so stupid? You will get killed. You will be beheaded’.’

John Letts begged his son to come home, telling him: ‘A father should never live to see his son buried.’

He went on to accuse him of being a ‘pawn … helping spread hatred, pain, anger, suffering and violence’, jurors heard.

In early 2015, police raided the family home and warned the defendants not to send any property or money to their son.

Jack Letts ranted about it to his parents, saying police would ‘die in your rage’.

In July 2015, he posted on Facebook that he would like to perform a ‘martyrdom operation’ on a group of British soldiers, and threatened to behead his old school friend Linus Doubtfire, who had joined the Army.

When challenged by his parents, he said: ‘I would happily kill each and every one of Linus Unit personally… I honestly want to cut Linus head off.’

Ms Morgan said it was ‘ridiculous’ to claim the message had been posted by someone else using Jack Letts’s account, because he even knew the name of the family cat.

In July 2015, Jack posted on Facebook that he would like to perform a 'martyrdom operation' on a group of British soldiers, and threatened to behead his old school friend Linus Doubtfire, who had joined the Army

In July 2015, Jack posted on Facebook that he would like to perform a 'martyrdom operation' on a group of British soldiers, and threatened to behead his old school friend Linus Doubtfire, who had joined the Army

In July 2015, Jack posted on Facebook that he would like to perform a ‘martyrdom operation’ on a group of British soldiers, and threatened to behead his old school friend Linus Doubtfire, who had joined the Army

The couple in court as they gave evidence during the trial

The couple in court as they gave evidence during the trial

The couple in court as they gave evidence during the trial 

At the time, Lane conceded in a message to her son it was ‘naive of us to believe’ he was not a fighter.

The defendants also consulted an academic expert who told them it was ‘highly improbable’ that Jack Letts had not engaged in military activity, the court heard.

In spite of the mounting evidence, Lane sent £223 after Jack Letts gave her his word the money would have ‘nothing to do with jihad’.

Police followed up with a second warning, telling Lane that ‘sending money to Jack is the same as sending money to Isis’.

But in December 2015, Jack Letts began indicating he would like to leave Syria and told of a ‘big misguidance in the state’.

John Letts told a family liaison officer that Jack Letts was ‘desperate to get out’ and in ‘danger’, and was advised he could send him money to leave.

The advice was quickly corrected and the defendants were issued with a written notice stating: ‘The police do not endorse or authorise the sending of any monies to Jack Letts.’

Lane told her son: ‘We know you are in danger so we feel we have no choice but to help you and send it.’

But when she asked him to spell out the danger he was in, Jack Letts responded: ‘Define danger.’

She went on to attempt two money transfers which were blocked, and the defendants were arrested.

John Letts declined to give evidence, but his barrister Henry Blaxland QC told jurors the prosecution was ‘inhumane to the point of being cruel’.

He said: ‘These parents have to all intents and purposes lost their son. They are having to deal with the trauma.’

The jury was not told that father-of-one Jack Letts, now aged 23, is being held by Kurdish authorities in northern Syria accused of being a member of IS.

The British Government has said it has no consular assistance in the region. 

Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes said the conviction sends a clear message, adding: ‘It’s not for us to choose which laws to follow and which not to and when it’s OK to break the law.’

She said investigators had a ‘huge empathy’ for the Letts family, adding: ‘Fundamentally John Letts and Sally Lane are not bad people.

‘It’s hard to imagine the kind of agony they must be going through because of the choices their son made.’ 

Despite their efforts to get their son home, it appeared he didn’t support them.

In a phone voicemail to a BBC journalist, Jack appeared not to support their unstinting efforts.

Despite his parents’ high profile campaign for his return, he told a BBC reporter: ‘To be honest the whole idea of putting pressure on the British Government to come and save me is not something I wanted to do or something I thought was clever.’

In a more recent interview with ITV in February, Jack appeared to have a change of heart.

He said: ‘If the UK accepted me then I’d go back to the UK, it’s my home. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.’

The 23-year-old, who has scars from an air strike injury, said he missed his mother, pasties and Doctor Who.

He also admitted his experience in Raqqa had made him think at the time the terror attack in Paris in 2015 was a ‘good thing’. 

From football-mad child to ISIS jihadi: How a middle class boy with OCD who was ‘indulged by his parents’ turned to Islam and is now languishing in a jail in northern Iraq 

Once Jack Letts had travelled to Syria, he became almost unrecognisable from the soccer-mad boy who used to sleep with his football.

The elder of Sally Lane and John Letts’s two sons, Jack struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder and Tourette’s at school, jurors were told.

His British-Canadian father described him as a ‘personable’ young man who was ‘engaging and humorous’.

At the age of 16, he converted to Islam and switched his football obsession for religion.

He used to attend the Bengali mosque in Cowley Road, Oxford, before he came into contact with men with a more radical ideology, jurors were told.

His friend, Anwar Belhimer, told his father he had been saying ‘worrying things’ and urged him to confiscate his passport.

But at the age of 18, his parents supported his decision to study Arabic abroad and he set off for Jordan and Kuwait.

From there, he married an Iraqi woman named Asmaa and they had a son Muhammed.

Despite warning signs, Lane was horrified when he told her he was in Syria in September 2014.

The court heard he was probably helped to travel to Islamic State territory by a group of fighters from Portsmouth.

He was ‘disrespectful’ to his parents in a series of heated email exchanges, yet they never gave up on their son and were prepared to go to prison to save him.

Jurors in their trial were not told what had become of their son, only that he was alive and now aged 23.

It can now be reported that he has spent the last two years in a prison in Kurdish-held Rojava, in northern Syria.

The British Government has said it has no consular assistance in the region.

Meanwhile, in a phone voicemail to a BBC journalist, Jack appeared not to support their unstinting efforts.

Despite his parents’ high profile campaign for his return, he told a BBC reporter: ‘To be honest the whole idea of putting pressure on the British Government to come and save me is not something I wanted to do or something I thought was clever.’

In a more recent interview with ITV in February, Jack appeared to have a change of heart.

He said: ‘If the UK accepted me then I’d go back to the UK, it’s my home. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.’

The 23-year-old, who has scars from an air strike injury, said he missed his mother, pasties and Doctor Who.

He also admitted his experience in Raqqa had made him think at the time the terror attack in Paris in 2015 was a ‘good thing’.

How events unfolded in five year nightmare for Jihadi Jack’s family

The Letts family’s five-year nightmare began when Sally Lane bought her son a flight to the Middle East and led to the dock of the Old Bailey. Here is how events unfolded:

– May 2014 – Jack Letts leaves his home in Oxford to travel to Jordan, then on to Kuwait, Iraq and Syria. Before arriving in Raqqa, he marries Asmaa, the daughter of an Iraqi tribal leader and they have a son Muhammed.

– September 2014 – The 18-year-old tells his mother he is in Syria. In an emotional message, John Letts responds: ‘A father should never live to see his son buried. I beg you my son, come home, or at least leave where you are and do not get so involved … Your mother has collapsed in fear and sadness … This is destroying your family.’

– March 2015 – Police raid the Letts family home and Jack responds by telling officers: ‘Die in your rage, soon you’ll be the ones being raided.’

– May 2015 – Jack Letts posts a photograph of himself at Taqba Dam in Raqqa, Syria.

– July 2015 – He comments on Facebook that he would like to ‘perform a martyrdom operation’ on an old school friend who joined the Army.

– August 2015 – The defendants are advised by an academic that Jack Letts would probably have got into Islamic State with help from a group of fighters from Portsmouth. He said it was ‘exceedingly unlikely and highly improbable’ that Jack had not engaged in militant activity.

– September 2015 – Sally Lane sends £223, telling her son: ‘I would go to prison for you if I thought it gave you a better chance of actually reaching your 25th birthday.’

– November 2015 – Police interview Sally Lane about the money transfer and she says it was to buy her son glasses. She is advised that sending him money is ‘the same as sending money to Isis in the eyes of the law’.

– December 2015 – Jack Letts talks of returning to England and says he has found a ‘big misguidance in the state’. John Letts tells a police officer his son is ‘desperate to get out’ and is ‘in danger’. 

Police correct a false impression they could send money if they had a genuine belief he needed help to leave Syria. The defendants attempt to make further money transfers on December 31 and January 4 2015.

– January 2016 – Sally Lane and John Letts are arrested and interviewed by police about sending money to their son, funding terrorism. Jack is at large for the rest of the year.

– June 2016: The couple make their first appearance at magistrates’ court charged with funding terrorism and are remanded into custody. Five days later, at the Old Bailey, they are granted bail by Mr Justice Saunders who said: ‘Two perfectly decent people have ended up in custody because of the love of their child.’

– December 2016: The defendants enter formal not guilty pleas to three charges of funding terrorism ahead of a scheduled trial on January 9 2017.

– January 2017: The trial is put off to allow for an appeal after a legal wrangle over the interpretation of the wording of the charge relating to whether the defendants had ‘reasonable cause to suspect’ the money was going to terrorism. 

The judge ruled: ‘The prosecution are required to prove there was reasonable cause to suspect on the information the defendant was aware of, a funding arrangement might be used for the purpose of terrorism.’ 

But he said the Crown was ‘not required to prove the defendant actually entertained that suspicion’.

– March 2017: The defendants lose at the Court of Appeal and seek to take their case to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Jack Letts is taken into custody of Kurdish forces in Rojava, Syria. 

A Kurdish Press release entitled Dealing With The International Human Rights Obligations, stated: ‘Jack Letts’ parents have been informed and reassured about his well-being and permitted to be in regular communication with Jack on a weekly basis since he has been detained.’

– October 2017 – The parents launch a hunger strike on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral to highlight their son’s plight and pressure the Government to secure his release. 

Lane claims in a press release that Jack had been wrongly labelled a jihadi even though ‘the British police have repeatedly told us there is no evidence that Jack has done anything wrong’. John Letts says his son had been in solitary confinement for two months.

– November 2017 – The British authorities make it clear that in the absence of consular access there was no mechanism to retrieve Jack Letts from Rojava.

– March 2018: Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC varies John Letts’ bail to allow him to travel to Canada to lobby for the government there to help in his son’s release from Syria as they have dual British-Canadian citizenship.

– April 2018 – The Supreme Court hears the Letts appeal.

– June 2018: Henry Blaxland QC for John Letts applies for disclosure about whether the British Government has communicated with Kurdish authorities in northern Syria about releasing Jack into UK/Canadian custody.

– July 2018 – The Supreme Court rejects the defendants’ appeal over the interpretation of the wording of the charge.

– October 2018: In legal argument, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC rejects the suggestion that Jack should be brought back to give evidence in his parents’ trial.

She said: ‘If by some apparently unlawful means Jack Letts could be removed from a Kurdish prison and brought to this country, one thing that can be said with certainty is that he would be arrested for terrorist offences when he arrived on British soil.’

Ms Morgan quoted from a voicemail message to a BBC journalist in which Jack allegedly said: ‘To be honest, the whole idea of putting pressure on the British Government to come and save me is not something I wanted to do or something I thought was clever.’

– September 2018 – The trial is delayed further after protesters stood outside the Old Bailey with banners reading, ‘Doing what any parent would do to save their child is not funding terrorism’ and ‘Families supporting Sally and John’.

Judge Hilliard said it was ‘foolish and misguided’ and could have prejudiced the trial. As well as the financial cost of delay, it had caused more anxiety to the defendants, he said.

He stopped short of ordering arrests, but warned if there was a repeat, protesters faced ‘arrest, finding of contempt, a fine and or imprisonment’.

– May 2019 – The trial finally gets under way at the Old Bailey. Sally Lane gives evidence but John Letts declines.

– June 2019 – Sally Lane and John Letts are found guilty of one charge of funding terrorism in September 2015 but not guilty of the same charge in December 2015. 

Jurors are discharged after they were unable to decide on a third charge relating to an attempt to send money in January 2016. Prosecutor Alison Morgan QC says the Crown will not seek a retrial and asks for the charge to lie on file.

link

(Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)

Leave a Reply