Alleged Westminster attacker ‘got lost in London’ and ‘panicked’, court told
Salih Khater denies two counts of attempted murder and two alternative charges of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm.
An alleged terrorist accused of trying to kill police officers and cyclists outside the Houses of Parliament has told jurors he “panicked” after he got “lost in London”.
Salih Khater, 30, allegedly drove his Ford Fiesta at a pedestrian and cyclists before careering towards two police officers and crashing into a security barrier on August 14 last year.
The prosecution has claimed that, while the defendant’s motive for the attack was unclear, by targeting Westminster, he had a “terrorist motive”.
But, giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Khater denied intending to kill anyone.
He told jurors he had travelled from his home in Birmingham to the capital to visit the Sudanese embassy for a visa after failing to get a fast-track passport to visit his sick mother.
He drove around Parliament Square three times in his Ford Fiesta before ploughing into cyclists waiting at a junction outside the Houses of Parliament, the court heard.
Asked to explain his driving, he said: “I was just lost. I was just lost in London.”
Replaying CCTV of the alleged attack, defence lawyer Peter Carter QC said: “Were you waiting for an opportunity to drive your car at cyclists?”
Khater said he was in a state of “confusion and hesitation”, trying to find his way to Tottenham Court Road or shops to get something to eat, not having had a meal since the morning before.
On the reason for the collision, he said: “I remember something made me panic.”
Asked why he failed to stop after crashing into a pedestrian and cyclists, Khater said: “The car was not in my full control at the time.”
Mr Carter said: “The prosecution say that you deliberately drove your car at those police officers.”
Khater replied: “I would say I have tried to find somewhere to stop after the incident at the traffic light.
“I collided with the barrier where two police officers were standing.”
The defendant was asked why he had Googled directions to 10 Downing Street before the crash.
He said: “I did want to find somewhere that I’m familiar with because I’m not familiar with London. I thought Croydon or Westminster or the area where I knew.”
Mr Carter said: “Did you want to visit 10 Downing Street?”
Khater replied: “No, I wanted to come near central London.”
The barrister asked: “Did you want to do harm to 10 Downing Street or anybody there?”
The defendant replied: “No, I did not.”
Earlier, the defendant described himself as an “OK driver”, having been granted asylum and British citizenship in 2010.
In 2018, he had worked as a security guard but failed accountancy exams at Coventry University.
In May last year, he emailed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn about a “number of event”, the court heard.
The email stated he was “confused and very worried”, claiming the event involved the “intelligence service”.
In response, he was advised by a Labour official to contact his local MP.
Asked to explain why he emailed Mr Corbyn, Khater said: “I was constantly stalked. It’s like I have been followed.
“That’s why I came to the conclusion that I should contact someone who should help.”
By August, Khater said he “might have still had those concerns”.
The Sudanese-born defendant, of Highgate Street, Birmingham, denies two counts of attempted murder and two alternative charges of attempting to cause grievous bodily harm.