Sunday 24 March 2019

Westminister attack suspect: Sudanese migrant who studied accountancy and loved Celine Dion

Salih Khater
Salih Khater

Nick Allen, Hayley Dixon and Izzy Lyons

The man suspected of ploughing into cyclists outside Parliament in London is a Sudanese immigrant who studied accountancy in the UK and loved Western music and football.

Addresses in the Midlands were being searched on Tuesday night as police investigated Salih Khater, the 29-year-old arrested on suspicion of preparing an act of terror.

As the UK national remained in police custody, details have started to emerge about the suspect, who lived in a small flat in Birmingham and described himself as a shop manager.

He is believed to have travelled through the night to stake out Westminster for more than an hour-and-a-half before mowing down cyclists in the heart of Westminster on Tuesday morning.

Khater waited until rush-hour before swerving on to the wrong side of the road and hitting cyclists who were waiting at the traffic lights. He then crashed into barriers outside the entrance to the House of Lords.

Khater was previously an accountancy student at Coventry University.

A spokesman for the university said: "Salih Khater studied accountancy at Coventry University between September 2017 and May 2018.

"As of May 2018 he is no longer enrolled at the university."

He had previously studied electrical engineering at Sudan University of Science and Technology in Khartoum.

Before that he went to school in Wad Madani, a town in east central Sudan, where his parents were sorghum farmers.

According to friends Khater had moved to the UK about five years ago, and became a citizen.

His social media profile showed he liked pop stars Celine Dion and Rihanna, and the rapper Eminem, along with Sudanese music.

Posts about music, in English and Arabic, were interspersed with others of mosques and desert landscapes. He had more than 300 friends on Facebook.

In 2010, he posted a series of music videos including Celine Dion performing Because You Loved Me in Memphis.

He posted another video of Eminem and Rihanna's Love The Way You Lie.

Khater also supported Al-Merrikh SC, a football club based in Omdurman, Sudan.

By 2011 friends on social media began wondering where he was and asking if he was OK, after he went silent.

In November that year Khater wrote: "Everybody had idea to say something and i will promise i will not disappear again and i will to be close to all my friend and i apologise for that thing."

After that he posted only a few desert pictures, the last on July 17 this year.

About four months ago he moved out of a flat over an internet cafe where he had been staying alone in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham.

Khater moved to another flat in Hall Green, Birmingham but was reportedly seen regularly at the internet cafe, including on the day before the attack.

According to people there he rarely conversed. One said Khater's father and brother had died within a short space of time. His former landlord said he always paid his rent on time.

A local barber, who did not want to be named, told The Telegraph: “He always comes to the Sudanese coffee shop next door. I think the last time I saw him was last week."

He was not known to MI5 or Scotland Yard, and had no criminal record or affiliation to terrorist groups. But he is believed to be known to West Midlands police.

The silver Ford Fiesta he drove had failed an MOT over deficiencies including defective headlights and hand brake, and been written off last year. However, it was sold two months ago.

It was registered to a council flat in Peveril Street, Nottingham.

Six Sudanese people had lived at that address for the last year, and police have searched the flat.

The suspect had driven from his home in Birmingham before allegedly using his car as a weapon, sparking suggestions that it was an attempted "copycat" of the attack launched by Khalid Masood a year earlier which had killed six people.

Masood had lived just ten minutes from the suspect's home in the Sparkbrook area of Birmingham, before travelling to London to carry out his attack.

ySecurity sources are keen to establish if there is a connection between the pair.

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