Widow ‘could not register’ that husband was ringleader of London Bridge attack
Zahrah Rehman told the inquests that Khuram Butt never gave the impression he would carry out an attack.
The widow of the London Bridge terror attack ringleader broke down in court as she said she had laid flowers at the scene but is “not able to look” at photos of the eight people who were killed.
Zahrah Rehman, who was married to Khuram Butt, 27, denied she “closed her eyes” to his extremist views despite not reporting concerns to authorities.
Giving evidence at the inquest into the attacks, she said her family took away the couple’s passports after Butt bought flights to Turkey as a suspected route to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group.
She told the Old Bailey that after the atrocity she mourned “with the rest of London”.
Ms Rehman said the final time she saw her husband, on June 3 2017 – hours before he launched the attack with Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22 – he gave her a “peck” on the cheek at their family home.
Hours later victims Xavier Thomas, 45, Christine Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were murdered in an attack which lasted less than 10 minutes.
The killers used a van to hit victims then continued their assault on foot with 12in ceramic knives before they were killed by police.
Armed officers stormed Butt’s home at about 8am the following day and detained Ms Rehman, she said.
Sobbing, she said: “I could not register it that I was living with him and he was in the same house as me and my kids. And how could he do that? I could not register it.
“It took me a long time to register it. Even now, it’s been like two years, and I have not been able to look at the victim’s pictures.
“I mourned for the victims’ families. Nobody knows this but I went to the bridge and laid flowers for the victims’ families. Nobody knew that I was his wife. I was there.
“My kids will never know where his (Butt’s) grave is but I was there mourning with the rest of London on that bridge.”
Counsel to the coroner Jonathan Hough QC asked her: “What would you say if it was suggested that you closed your eyes to signs he might do something terrible?”
She said Butt “never showed any signs” of carrying out an atrocity.
Earlier in her evidence, Ms Rehman said her family seized their passports, along with her son’s, after Butt bought tickets for a “holiday” together in Turkey.
She said she believed he was “so interested in what was going on in Syria that he was just using Turkey as an excuse”.
“He didn’t admit that he wanted to go to Syria but everybody was really doubtful of his intentions,” Ms Rehman said.
“It led to people in my family taking my passport, his passport and my son’s passport away just to protect us.”
The tickets were bought around the beginning of 2016, when Butt started associating with hate preacher Anjem Choudary, the inquest heard.
Mr Hough asked: “You had a real concern that his plan was to go to Syria to fight?”
She replied: “Yes, because the people he was hanging around with at that time had those views.”
Mr Hough asked if she put “two and two together” and thought to “tell the authorities” about it.
She said: “Everybody thought they had got through to him and he made promises to everyone.”
The couple, both with Pakistani heritage, had wed in an arranged marriage on Christmas Day in 2013.
Videos were shown to the court of their honeymoon in Pakistan, including one of the pair riding a camel as Butt made Arabic statements linked to IS.
He says “Dawlat al-Islamiyah”, which Mr Hough said is “used in connection with IS”.
In a second video recorded on a plane, Butt and Ms Rehman speak about airports including a “London airport” and Ataturk Airport in Istanbul being renamed after Islamic extremists.
Butt talks about renaming one after Omar Baku, founder of the banned group Al-Muhajiroun.
His wife suggests naming another Abu Luqman, an alias used by Anjem Choudary.
Asked if the conversation “troubled” her, Ms Rehman said she “brushed it off as a stupid joke” and suggested Choudary’s alias “to carry on the joke”.
She said that before she married Butt her impression of him was a “street boy” and “gangster”.
In his questioning, Gareth Patterson QC, representing six victims’ families, asked: “Is it the truth that throughout your marriage to this man you not only saw how extreme he was in his radical views, you also did realise that he was capable of something that involved the use of violence?”
Ms Rehman said: “I knew he was capable of packing his bags and going to Turkey or Syria. I never, ever, ever though he would do something to people in this country.”
The inquest also heard from Usman Darr, Butt’s brother-in-law who reported him to an anti-terror hotline over his radical views.
He told the court: “They (the security services) didn’t prevent it. I thought there must have been some bad communication somewhere.”
Asked by Mr Patterson how he felt, he replied: “Eight people lost their lives, sir.”
The inquest continues.