Thursday 21 September 2017

Village thug with a blood lust had sought help over his urges to kill

Police leave flowers outside parliament in London in tribute to the victims of Khalid Masood Picture: PA
Police leave flowers outside parliament in London in tribute to the victims of Khalid Masood Picture: PA

Hayley Dixon and Robert Mendick

The terrorist who murdered four innocent people in an attack on Westminster had long harboured a "blood lust" and had sought professional help over his urges to kill, a former close friend claims.

An astonishing picture has emerged of the journey Adrian Ajao took from polite schoolboy from a well-to-do family to Isil-inspired killer who called himself Khalid Masood.

The first photographs of Ajao, one of three brothers, show him smiling broadly in a football team photograph when aged 15.

But within a few years, Ajao, who attended Huntleys Secondary School for Boys in Tunbridge Wells in Kent, had already begun to go off the rails, falling in with the wrong crowd and beginning to drink heavily and take drugs.

Kenton Till (52), one of his closest school friends, said: "Adrian was a bloody good footballer, one of the best players in the school. He was one of those kids who was very popular. He had a big personality and everyone liked him.

"He was very bright and very good at chemistry.

"But I remember he came to a New Year's party at my house with a group of lads who were drunk and on something and my parents asked them to leave. After that we sort of lost touch."

Ajao was 18 when he got his first conviction for criminal damage in 1983.

Over the next 15 years, he would lurch from one scrape to another. But by the mid-1990s, Ajao appeared to have settled down, living with Jane Harvey, the mother of his two daughters, in a bungalow in the village of Northiam in Sussex.

It would all turn sour in July 2000 when Ajao, already earmarked as a village trouble maker, was jailed for slashing the face of Piers Mott, a local pub landlord.

Westminster attacker Khalid Masood Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire
Westminster attacker Khalid Masood Photo: Metropolitan Police/PA Wire

Lee Lawrence (47), a friend of Ajao's at the time, said a fight had broken out over claims he had been subjected to a racial slur. Suddenly without notice, Ajao, whose mother is white and father is black, pulled out a knife and slashed Mr Mott.

Stronger

"There were some big boys in the pub, and they couldn't stop him," recalled Mr Lawrence, "He was stronger than a bull. If you went for him, he would do you with a knife.

"I was driving past and I saw what was happening. I got out of my truck and said everybody just get back in the pub and leave him with me. His eyes had rolled and he was out of this world.

"Once outside the pub, he also began slashing Mr Mott's car seats."

Read More: 'Final photo' of tragic Westminster policeman shared by American tourist

Mr Lawrence tried to calm Ajao down. Instead his friend went for him. "He had the knife against my throat and he is going: 'I want some blood, I want some f***ing blood, I want to kill someone.'

"After he calmed down a bit, he was saying: 'What have I done? What am I doing? I am going for help, I just want blood or I want to kill someone.'

"He said he was having help, some kind of anger management."

On one occasion, Mr Lawrence remembered Ajao's fury that his partner had been banned from playing in the village netball team because of his violent outbursts.

Ajao's response was "to slash a few of the car tyres" of the female players.

At other times, he had told Mr Lawrence: "I dream about blood. I dream about killing someone."

The attack on Mott resulted in Ajao being jailed. His relationship with Ms Harvey, the only person in the village who could calm him down, inevitably fell apart. She ran a chemical company in nearby Bodiam and Ajao did odd jobs for the family firm.

While he was in jail Ajao converted to Islam and started using the name Khalid Masood.

He moved to a bedsit in the seaside resort of Eastbourne where he slashed another man's face with a knife and went back to jail in 2003.

In 2004, a year out of jail, Ajao married Farzana Malik, then aged 25, from Gillingham in Kent. On the marriage certificate, Ajao used his birth name Adrian Russell Elms and gave his profession as a teacher. Elms was his mother's maiden name while Ajao was his father's name.

The marriage did not last and Ms Malik now lives in Greater Manchester.

Ajao maintained contact with his daughters especially his youngest Andi, who at the age of 16 would suffer terrible injuries when hit by a lorry as she crossed the road on her way to school in 2008. It seems remarkable - given what would happen almost a decade later on Westminster Bridge - but Ajao would spend hours at his daughter's bedside, praying for her recovery.

One neighbour recalled: "Andi was knocked down as she ran to get the school bus and she almost died. She was severely injured and her parents had to keep a bedside vigil. She was in hospital for ages and it took her a long time to fully recover."

Andi, who was devoted to her father, would spend more and more time with Ajao and would eventually convert to Islam herself. Andi, now aged 24, is understood to wear a full face veil and has changed her name. There is no suggestion that she shared her father's extreme beliefs or knew about his plans to launch Wednesday's terror attack.

Read More: Police officers across the UK are receiving cakes, flowers and sweets after the Westminster attack

From Eastbourne, Ajao went on the move. He travelled to Saudi Arabia and lived variously in Luton, east London and latterly in Birmingham, where he hired the car before launching his murderous onslaught.

A CV he circulated earlier this year showed he had become an English-language teacher in Luton and then in 2012 set up a tutoring business for Arabian students in Birmingham called IQRA. On his CV he listed his interests as body building and described himself as "friendly and approachable, as well as being a good listener".

On the eve of the attack, Ajao drove from Birmingham back to his old stamping ground on the south coast, checking into the €70-a-night Preston Park Hotel in Brighton. He stayed in room 228, ate a last evening meal of a kebab and told hotel staff: "I'm off to London today" as if he were on a sightseeing tour.

His parents, Philip (77) and Janet Ajao (69), who now live on a farm in Wales having moved there from Tunbridge Wells, have been left devastated.

Mrs Ajao runs a business from the remote farmhouse selling hand-made cushions and handbags. Hers is a very British cottage industry, and Mr and Mrs Ajao are a model of respectability.

A far cry from the jihadist path their son took before his violent journey was finally halted by a policeman's bullets at the palace of Westminster. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Telegraph.co.uk

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