Thursday 23 November 2017

Teenager admits killing American tourist in Russell Square knife rampage

Zakaria Bulhan, who has admitted killing an American tourist and injuring five other people during a knife rampage in London's Russell Square (Photo: PA)
Zakaria Bulhan, who has admitted killing an American tourist and injuring five other people during a knife rampage in London's Russell Square (Photo: PA)

A teenager has admitted killing an American tourist and injuring five other people during a knife rampage in London's Russell Square, the scene of one of the 7/7 bombings.

Unemployed Zakaria Bulhan, 19, targeted 64-year-old retired teacher Darlene Horton and several other random strangers on the evening of August 3 last year.

Within six minutes of the alarm being raised, armed police swooped on the scene and Bulhan was arrested without a shot being fired.

Initial fears of a terror attack were later calmed as it emerged that Bulhan's violent behaviour had been sparked by mental illness.

On what would have been the first day of an Old Bailey trial, Bulhan denied murder but admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility.

He also pleaded not guilty to five counts of attempted murder, but admitted wounding with intent to Martin Hoenisch, Lillie Sellentin, David Imber, Bernard Hepplewhite and Yovel Lewronski.

The pleas were accepted by the prosecution.

Mother-of-two Mrs Horton was visiting London with her husband, Richard Wagner - a university professor from Florida who was teaching summer classes. She was due to return to their home in Tallahassee the following day.

She was described by a neighbour as ''absolutely lovely" and "just one of the nicest, sweetest, family-focused people".

Mr Hoenisch, a retired fireman from Las Vegas, was visiting London with his wife, Laurie Kelly, when he was injured in the attack.

He said on Facebook afterwards that it was a "very unreal experience" and he was "still very saddened about the woman who was killed".

Ms Lewronski, 18, was visiting London from Tel Aviv when she was stabbed in the upper arm.

She said on Facebook she did not know whether to call it ''luck or fate'' that she escaped death, adding that she had watched as Mrs Horton ''perished in front of my eyes''.

Following the stabbings, a picture emerged of Bulhan as a "quiet, academic loner" who liked football, basketball and music.

The defendant is a Norwegian national of Somali origin who moved to the UK in 2002.

He lived with his mother and siblings in a council flat in Tooting, south-west London, and was a student at the local Graveney School.

The court heard that Bulhan was suffering an "acute" episode of paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attacks.

Prosecutor Mark Heywood QC said the case had been considered at the "highest level" and it was decided it was right to accept the pleas.

Mr Justice Spencer ordered attempted murder charges to lie on file.

Russell Square was the scene of one of the London suicide bombings in which 52 innocent people died on July 7 2005.

Opening the facts of the case, Mr Heywood said that, on the evening of August 3 last year, a man was seen "moving in an erratic fashion" in Russell Square, armed with a large kitchen knife.

He said: "Without warning or provocation, the man stabbed six people in relatively quick succession, saying nothing to any of them, moving on after each stabbing towards his next victim."

Five of the victims suffered non-fatal injuries and made good recoveries.

Mrs Horton was stabbed in the back, with the blade penetrating her left lung and heart, and died at the scene.

Months before the killing, Bulhan had dropped out of college as his mental state deteriorated.

In March last year, he had been referred for treatment for his mental health and his behaviour became more odd leading up to August, the court heard.

Earlier on Wednesday August 3, Bulhan had gone with his father to attend prayers at the East London Mosque but had run off.

He was caught in a series on CCTV images walking into Russell Square at 10.22pm.

The court heard that many of his victims were tourists who were returning from London's theatreland to their hotels.

Mrs Horton had spent her last evening in London dining in Lambs Conduit Street in Bloomsbury.

Mr Hepplewhite, 65, from London, who attended court, had been to see a production of Showboat in Drury Lane with a friend visiting from Canada, just before he too was attacked as they walked back to her hotel.

Australian tourist Ms Sellentin, 23, had been to see Aladdin at the Prince Edward Theatre with a friend.

American Mr Hoenisch, 59, and his wife were returning from a restaurant in Covent Garden.

Australian Mr Imber, 40, had been to see Kinky Boots at the Adelphi Theatre in the Strand, while Israeli Ms Lewronski was returning from dinner with her grandfather.

Some of them later described how Bulhan "skipped" up and appear to punch them.

Ms Sellentin and Mr Hepplewhite only realised they had been stabbed when someone shouted: "He's got a knife."

Mr Wagner shouted "This guy is trying to stab people" and chased him with his camera phone at the ready to take photographs.

Mr Imber described his attacker as having a "crazed smile" as he stabbed him in the chest.

Ms Lewronski, the youngest victim, went into shock and began screaming after being stabbed in the arm, the court heard.

Bulhan was seen plunging the knife into Mrs Horton's back "up to the hilt".

Bulhan screamed and ran away when police ordered him to stand still and drop the knife.

He was Tasered by an officer and fell to the floor muttering: "Allah, Allah, Allah."

In his tracksuit pocket was a pamphlet entitled Fortress of the Muslim, the court heard.

Mr Heywood said neither were thought to be significant evidence of his motivation.

Press Association

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