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Driver found guilty of attack outside Houses of Parliament

The attack was caught on dramatic CCTV footage which was played in court.

Salih Khater (Met Police/PA)
Salih Khater (Met Police/PA)

A student has been found guilty of trying to kill cyclists and police officers outside the Houses of Parliament.

Salih Khater, 30, ploughed his Ford Fiesta into a pedestrian and a group of cyclists who had stopped at a red light in Parliament Square on August 14 last year.

He then careered into a security lane and crashed into barriers as two police officers jumped out of the way.

The attack was caught on CCTV footage which was played in court.

The Old Bailey heard Khater, of Highgate Street, Birmingham, wanted to cause maximum carnage and it was “miraculous” that no-one was killed.

But Khater claimed he came to London to find the Sudanese embassy to get a visa, “got lost” around Westminster and panicked.

The jury deliberated over two days before rejecting his explanation and finding him guilty of two charges of attempted murder.

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Footage taken from CCTV of the moment Salih Khater, 30, drove his silver Ford Fiesta at cyclists before crashing into barriers as two uniformed police officers (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Khater made no reaction as he was found guilty of the charges.

Mrs Justice McGowan remanded him into custody to be sentenced on October 7. She ordered pre-sentence reports to help her determine Khater’s potential dangerousness.

Jenny Hopkins, from the Crown Prosecution Service, said: “It was only quick reactions and good luck that stopped Salih Khater killing anyone when he drove his car into cyclists and police officers outside Westminster.

“His driving was so precise and determined that it was difficult for skilled accident investigators to repeat the manoeuvre he carried out.

“Whatever his motives, this was not an accident. It was a deliberate attempt to kill and maim as many people as possible.”

During the trial, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC said Khater’s attack was “premeditated and deliberate”.

She said: “He caused widespread fear and chaos but miraculously, and contrary to his intentions, he did not kill anyone that day.

“Those who were faced with a vehicle being driven at them at high velocity somehow, and largely by their quick responses, managed to avoid death or very serious injury.”

Ms Morgan told jurors Khater’s reason for the attack was unclear but by targeting officers guarding the Palace of Westminster the defendant had a “terrorist motive”.

The court heard how Khater was born in Sudan and was granted asylum in Britain in 2010, after claiming he had been tortured in his home country.

In the months before the attack, the defendant showed signs of “paranoia” about British authorities, it was claimed.

He had failed his accountancy exams at the University of Coventry and his work as a security guard had dried up.

On May 24 last year, he emailed Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn to express concern about an “event” involving the intelligence services, the court heard.

The day before the attack, Khater had travelled to Peterborough and unsuccessfully applied for a fast-track UK passport, the court heard.

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Salih Khater leaving the Passport Office in Peterborough where he applied for a fast-track UK passport (Metropolitan Police/PA)

He then set off from Birmingham to London just before 10pm, arriving after midnight.

Evidence from his mobile phone showed he had looked up maps for 10 Downing Street and Westminster on the internet as potential “deliberate targets”.

CCTV captured Khater arriving in Parliament Square just before 1am and driving around Westminster, checking the layout for the attack five or six hours later.

He then parked up and rested for four-and-a-half hours in Windmill Street in Soho before returning to Parliament Square for further reconnaissance.

He went on to do four laps of the square before launching the rush-hour attack.

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Injured cyclists outside the Houses of Parliament just after Salih Khater crashed into them at a junction (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Pedestrian Paul Brown was crossing the road when Khater’s car “came out of nowhere” and hit him, causing bruising and grazes.

Krystof Tokarski and Anya Breen were cycling to work and were waiting at traffic lights when Khater revved his engine and knocked them down.

Mr Tokarski suffered grazes and a broken little finger while Ms Breen was thrown over the bonnet, fracturing her collar bone.

Other people were trapped under their bikes, with some screaming in pain.

The defendant made a sharp turn into a slip road, going 32mph, forcing Pc Darren Shotton and Pc Simon Short to dive out of the way.

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The silver Ford Fiesta after it crashed outside the Houses of Parliament (Metropolitan Police/PA)

As armed police removed Khater from the car, the defendant confirmed he was acting alone but failed to explain himself.

Giving evidence, Khater said he wanted to return to Sudan to visit his sick mother and had Googled Downing Street and Westminster in his bid to find his way around central London.

He told jurors he “got lost” and “panicked” when he collided into cyclists and was trying to pull over when he crashed into barriers in the security lane.

He said: “I remember something made me panic. The car was not in my full control at the time.”

Commander Clarke Jarrett, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “Salih Khater carried out an appalling act to deliberately target both members of the public and police officers, trying to kill and injure them.

“My thoughts are with the victims and I hope today’s verdict means those affected can begin to put the ordeal behind them.

“Through our investigation, we found that Khater acted completely alone. We made extensive inquiries and searched his address and his digital devices, seeking evidence that could explain why he did this.

“Khater remained silent throughout our investigation and only at his trial offered the implausible explanation that it was an accident. However, the evidence showed otherwise and he now faces a considerable time in prison.”

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