A British Muslim convert who plotted the slaughter of scores of Oxford Street shoppers after vowing to ‘destroy all that you hold dear’ has been jailed for life.
Lewis Ludlow, from Rochester in Kent, planned to kill innocents in Oxford Street, central London, made videos saying how much he hates the UK and loves death.
In one of the videos, the 26-year-old, who called himself ‘The Eagle’, said into the camera: ‘I pledge allegiance to the Islamic State. We love death as much as you love life.’
Lewis Ludlow from Rochester (pictured, left, gripping a sword and, right, in a video he took swearing allegiance to Islamic State) faces jail for plotting a terror attack
Ludlow (pictured being interviewed by police) gave a ‘no comment’ interview when officers quizzed him about his planned attack despite boasting about his extremist beliefs in videos he took of himself
Pictured: Ludlow in central London scoping out locations for the attack he hoped to carry out. Locations he favoured included St Paul’s Cathedral before he finally settled on Oxford Street
Police found this picture of one of the London Bridge attacker’s suicide vests on Ludlow’s phone after he threw it out
Officers found Ludlow’s phone (pictured) in a grid and uncovered disturbing Islamic State material on the device
He added that he has ‘nothing for this country’ and: ‘I spit on your citizenship, your passport – you can go to hell with that.’
The Islamist signs off his sick clip by growling that he hopes to ‘establish the sharia (Islamic law) over your necks whether you like it or not and may we destroy all of what you hold dear.’
Ludlow rants about how much he hates the UK in his videos
Ludlow was handed a life sentence at the Old Bailey today and ordered to serve at least 15 years behind bars. He hung his head as his sentence was read.
In a second video he recorded he says: ‘This is the eagle. I pledge allegiance to Islamic State,’ before ranting: ‘I grew up amongst you people and learned about your debauchery your kufr (non-belief) shirk (idolatry/polytheism) and i have made my allegiance clear, who I stand with.’
Referencing the terror group’s leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, he says: ‘May his name strike terror and fear into your hearts always.’
Between March 15 and April 19, Ludlow prepared to drive a van through busy crowds, bought a phone under a false name and wrote down attack plans later found ripped up in a bin.
Ludlow, who also nicknamed himself The Ghost, researched potential targets, including St Paul’s Cathedral and a Shia mosque in Romford, East London.
This chilling image shows Ludlow in a sword shop before he planned to carry out an attack in Oxford Street, central London
When police asked Ludlow about whether he had planned to carry out an attack in the UK, he replied: ‘No comment’
This is one of the pictures that Ludlow took as he scoped out locations in central London for the purposes of planning an attack
These disturbing notes were recovered by police and show Ludlow listing the potential locations he could strike
But he identified Oxford Street as an ‘ideal’ target, writing: ‘It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack’.
Chilling CCTV footage shows Ludlow visiting London on March 13 as he scoped out the capital wearing a green jacket and black woolly hat.
Despite boasting of his loyalty to the Islamist organisation from underneath a hood in his bizarre clips, he then gave a ‘no comment’ answer when police asked if he was a terrorist in videos made available today following his sentencing.
Ludlow formulated his plan after being stopped by police at Heathrow airport in February as he attempted to board a flight to the Philippines.
It was alleged he also set up a Facebook account called Antique Collections as a front to send money to south-east Asia for terrorism.
The defendant was due to face trial in the autumn on two charges of preparing acts of terrorism and one of terror funding.
But at a hearing before Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC at the Old Bailey, he pleaded guilty to plotting an attack in the UK and funding Islamic State abroad.
Today Judge Hilliard told Ludlow: ‘You were seeking ingratiate yourself with very dangerous people indeed. I think these things were seriously contemplated by you.
‘I do accept that you were bullied at school and you have difficulty forming relationships with others.
‘But instead of joining a mosque and finding community there, you attached yourself to those who promoted violent extremism. You were well able to resist the prevent program and did so.
‘It shows that you are perfectly capable of exerting yourself when you want to. You are nobody’s fool. You were no one’s unwilling instrument or tool.
‘There was nothing about those videos that show you were acting reluctantly on the direction of Abu Yaqeen. I have seen no sign that you were anything other than an enthusiast participant in the plan.
‘I’m not saying you were the leading role but you took a leading role here in London. I have no doubt multiple deaths would have been caused.’
Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said it would not be in the public interest to pursue a trial on a charge of attempting to join the terror group in the Philippines, which the defendant denied. That charge will lie on the court file.
The extremist first came to the attention of police in 2010 when he attended a demonstration led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) group.
Ludlow (right) first flagged up to police when he attended a protest led by extremist preacher Anjem Choudary (left)
Here Ludlow is pictured with Trevor Brooks (left) who changed his name to Abu Izzadeen when he dedicated himself to extremism
How did Ludlow get involved in extremism?
Lewis Ludlow radicalised in 2010 when he contacted radical group al-Muhajiroun, headed by Anjem Choudary, on the Paltalk chatroom, when he was 18, he told court.
‘They spoke to me online and wanted me to come along to a demonstration and they seemed very nice and I thought I would go along and see what it was like,’ he said. ‘They seemed very friendly at first and a kind of community.’
In March 2011 Ludlow posted a video on the Global Shariah YouTube channel in which he claimed to have been a neo-Nazi before converting.
He spent eight years living at home on benefits, but was doing one of three stints working as a Christmas casual for the Royal Mail when he decided to escape to the Philippines.
Rebecca Trowler QC, defending, said Ludlow was a ‘vulnerable man’ in relation to his mental health, particularly his autism and depression.
Ludlow was prescribed Ritalin as a child for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
He had also been in contact with Mizanur Rahman, known as Abu Baraa, who was jailed for encouraging support for ISIS, and backed Ludlow when he was accused online of being a spy.
Police realised Ludlow was in contact with Junaid Hussain, a British ISIS fighter in Syria, in July 2015 who was killed in a drone strike. Ludlow was also part of a Telegram chat group which contained conversations about how to make a remote-controlled bomb.
When he was arrested in 2015, officers recovered Islamic State material from his electronic devices but took no further action.
In January this year, he bought a ticket to fly to the Philippines on February 3 but was stopped at the airport and had his passport seized.
When spoken to by police, he claimed he was going to the country as a sex tourist.
But in a search of his home, officers found he was in communication with a man named Abu Yaqeen in an area with a significant IS presence.
In March, Ludlow sent him money via PayPal and created the Facebook account Antique Collections.
It purported to be an antiques business in Maidstone but, the prosecution alleged, was really a front to raise money for IS in the Philippines.
On March 21, police recovered torn-up scraps of papers from Ludlow’s bin detailing his plans.
Pictured: Police seal off Ludlow’s house in Rochester, Kent, following his arrest for plotting a terror attack
They were pieced together to reveal ‘potential attack sites’ including ‘Madame tussauds’, ‘Oxford Street – busiest time…’, ‘St Paul’s cathedral’ and a ”Shia temple in Romford’.
It added: ‘Further locations scouted for the kil. (sic).’ He also detailed a potential attack on Oxford Street using a van mounting the pavement, noting the lack of safety barriers.
The extremist also referred to himself as The Ghost in this note
It said: ‘Wolf should either use a ram attack or use…on the truck to maximise death…it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack. It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack.’
On April 13, Ludlow’s mobile phone was retrieved from a storm drain. It contained videos of the defendant swearing allegiance to IS and pictures of crowded areas, said to be evidence of ‘hostile reconnaissance’.
Videos of beheadings and a Jordanian pilot being burnt alive, were found on his phone.
Meanwhile, undercover officers engaged Yaqeen in online chat, in which the IS fanatic called for ‘lone wolf’ attacks and funds to be sent to the Philippines.
Yaqeen put the undercover officer in touch with Ludlow, implying they could work together on an attack in Britain.
Ludlow was arrested by counter terrorism police on April 18 but refused to explain himself when interviewed.
The Eagle took pictures of busy streets in central London as he plotted to carry out an attack and kill 100 shoppers
Search history on Ludlow’s browser showed that he looked for Islamic State material while planning his attack
He was diagnosed with autism after his arrest and was prescribed Ritalin as a child for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). He was home schooled from the age of 14 and converted to Islam at the age of 16.
Giving evidence in January 2019, Ludlow said he was ‘bitter’ and ‘heartbroken’ when he was barred from travelling to the Philippines.
He said: ‘I felt that I was trapped like an animal unable to escape its cage.’
Ludlow said he wanted to travel to the Philippines not for terrorism purposes but because he always had an attraction towards ‘Asian, oriental females..’
‘I wanted to go and get married. I always felt that I could start a life there and find a wife and a job,’ he said.
Rebecca Trowler QC, defending, said his risk of future harm and his culpability were reduced because of the ‘unsophisticated’ nature of the plans and his mental health and autism.
She said: ‘There are significant doubts in relation to the defendants culpability of driving a van.
‘The likelihood of this defendant successfully carrying out this attack was therefore very small. The defendant has no previous convictions.
Ms Trowler said there was a ‘change of mindset’ before his arrest and he was often under direction of Abu Yaqeen rather than taking a ‘significant leading role’ in preparations.
‘The defendant has expressed remorse with recognition of wrong doing and shame,’ she said, adding his ‘depression and mental disorder at the period of time.
‘The autism creates social isolation and a greater need for social inclusion and thus more vulnerable to manipulation.’
But Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, has previously described him as ‘a serious danger to the public’ who ‘considers himself a soldier fighting for Daesh (Islamic State) in the UK’.
Ludlow attended a series of 17 meetings of the Prevent de-radicalisation programme between October 20 2017 and March 2018, including one on the day he conducted his surveillance on Oxford Street, but agreed in one online conversation that he would ‘fake it’.