Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 30 August 2014

Northern Ireland man planned to kill Prince Harry

Ashraf Islam, 31, formerly known as Mark Townley
Ashraf Islam, 31, formerly known as Mark Townley

A man from Northern Ireland who planned to disarm a royal bodyguard and use the gun to assassinate Prince Harry has been jailed for three years.

Ashraf Islam (31) – formerly known as Mark Townley – confessed to police he wanted to kill the prince for going on two combat tours of duty in Afghanistan.

Islam, who is originally from Bangor in Co Down, was held the day after Drummer Lee Rigby was murdered in Woolwich and claimed that the fourth in line to the throne "had blood on his hands".

He spent 10 days in Thailand building up his fitness and carried out internet research about Prince Harry's whereabouts before flying to London to carry out the attack.

He called his mission 'Operation Royal'.

The would-be royal killer then began to feel "scared and nervous" and walked into Hounslow police station in west London, where he confessed to the murder plot.

He admitted making a threat to kill when he appeared before magistrates on May 25 last year, two days after giving himself up.

Prosecutor Lynne Townley said Islam told a police officer he had spent time watching soldiers on Horse Guards Parade.

"The defendant planned to disarm an officer whilst disguised as a tourist rather than bringing a gun into London," Ms Townley said.

"He used his time in Thailand to get his fitness to a higher level. He planned to send a telephone warning to create a diversion."

A document found on Islam's computer read: "Aim for target. No civilians to be injured. Dress code is the biker look. Use low calibre pistol at close range. Not to be viewed as Islamist extremist."

Further analysis on Islam's laptop showed a number of internet searches about Prince Harry's protection team, where he lived, and his royal engagements.

A video found on the computer also showed Islam making threats to kill the royal while he was in Malaysia.

Isleworth Crown Court heard after landing at Heathrow from Thailand, Islam checked into a Travelodge hotel and went to Hounslow police station the following morning on May 23.

Roxanne Morrell, defending, said Islam, who had no history of violence, told a duty officer he wanted to talk about a murder and asked to speak in private.

Ms Morrell added: "He told the officer he had come to the station because he wanted to admit to a serious incident which he would commit the next day.

"He said he was being monitored by UK security.

"He was asked for further details of what these plans were and he said it was the murder of a high-profile person.

"The Pc called a sergeant and counter terrorism officers – Islam was asked which particular person he intended to kill.

"It was at this point he said Prince Harry – he said he intended to kill Prince Harry tomorrow."

Islam told officers he did not agree with the murder of Drummer Rigby, who was hacked to death in the street by two Islamic extremists just the day before, because the soldier was "a soft target".

He said he believed hurting people was wrong but "Prince Harry had blood on his hands for power and profit".

Judge Richard McGregor-Johnson said Islam clearly suffered from a personality disorder.

"I have to remember that this wasn't a threat made in isolation because examination of your computer showed you had done research into the whereabouts and engagements of Prince Harry," he said. "Your view at the time was that Prince Harry and other officers who served in the armed forces have some moral guilt and that you seemed to think that you had the formal right to judge and act on your assessment – views that you continued to hold.

"I, however, accept that there's nothing here that can be described as professional plan to carry out your intentions."

Judge McGregor-Johnson added that although Islam's planning was "vague and unlikely to succeed", it would have required the intervention of armed officers in public.

Islam, of no fixed address, was jailed for three years.

PROFILE

Ashraf Islam, who changed his name by deed poll in 2010, has been previously convicted for fraud in Liverpool when he advertised bodyguard courses with the promise of security work in Iraq.

He was also jailed for nine years for attempted robbery in 2000.

The Muslim convert later moved to Dublin to live in an Islamic community before travelling to Cairo to learn more about the religion.

He previously served time in Maghaberry jail for fraud. On his release he lived in Dublin before returning to Bangor where he told Sunday Life he was a "part-time" Muslim working in the porn business.

Further reading

Mark Townley: The serial con artist who became an unlikely jihadist 

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