Family of convert feared to be with Isil blame right wing conspiracy
Jack Letts, 20, has been dubbed “Jihadi Jack” and is suspected of joining Isil in Syria but family hit out at “an avalanche of misinformation” about him
The family of a man feared to be Britain’s first white convert to join Isil last night claimed he is the victim of a “right wing” conspiracy.
Jack Letts, 20, has been dubbed “Jihadi Jack” by friends after leaving his Oxford home and travelling to Syria, where he is suspected of having joined the terror group.
He has posted photos of himself on social media, thought to have been taken near the Taqba Dam in Syria. In one he is wearing combat-style clothing.
But a man who identified himself only as a close family member insisted there had been “an avalanche of misinformation” about him in the media.
Mr Letts’ father, John, is a leading organic farmer who has appeared on BBC’s Countryfile and won a Prince Charles grant to help preserve crop biodiversity.
John Letts is an archaeobotanist and a leading light in organic wheat as well as being a master thatcher and baker.
Neighbours said he and his family were left devastated and depressed after Jack ran off to Syria in 2014 aged just 18.
One said he first converted to Islam after being encouraged by Muslim classmates but was later radicalised by local extremists.
But speaking at the family home last night, the close family member said: “There has been an avalanche of misinformation.
"We don't want to comment on all of this, but what I will say is that 95 per cent of what has been published is incorrect, it is desperately wrong.
"The only truth is that Jack is a Muslim and he is overseas. But everything else is made up and it is just getting worse.”
The man, who refused to confirm his identity, said the “right wing” media were only “interested in a snappy line like 'Jihadi Jack' and 'Jihadi John' that rolls off the tongue, but it is all wrong”.
Mr Letts, now 20, was once a keen sportsman and Liverpool FC fan who had been the “class clown” when a pupil at Cherwell School in Oxford, according to former classmates.
But he converted to Islam and friends fear was then radicalised by local fanatics in discreet prayer meetings.
It is believed he lied to his parents before leaving for Syria and told them he was moving to Kuwait to study Arabic.
Since arriving in Syria, he is thought to have married and had a son.
His father, who is Canadian, is a leading figure in reviving traditional crops that were in common use hundreds of years ago.
He produce heritage flour from wheat grown around Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire and feature on BBC Countryfile last year.
In 2011, he was a co-recipient of £25,000 from the Prince’s Countryside Fund.
Neighbours on the terraced street where the family live in Oxford spoke of their "utter sadness" that the "polite and lovely" boy they had seen grow up had allegedly joined Isil.
One woman Muslim neighbour, who asked to remain anonymous, told how she became concerned after his conversion to Islam.
“He told me he had started visiting a Wahhabi mosque. I believe he started going there with his classmates and I knew this could be bad as Wahhabi is not Islam, it is very bad,” she said.
"I spoke with his father who became very worried when he converted to Islam. I sat with him and told him not to worry.
"To hear that he has gone away to Syria brings me utter sadness. I feel very depressed, and I feel bad for him.
"His father was very depressed when we last spoke, it must be terrifying for him to have a son going into a war zone.
"I fear Jack has been brainwashed.”
Another neighbour said: "[Jack's] father is a very good man, but now he is depressed because of all of this.
"He grows unusual varieties of rye experimentally and breaks it down into flour in a mill, which he sells on to health food shops.
"John would sell the bread from his house, so quite often I would see people knocking on his door and buying bread right on the doorstep.
"We barely see the family now. I know with his line of work he can quite often work night and day, but the family don't seem to come out of their home as much as they used to.”