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  1. ITV Report

Finsbury Park attack trial: Accused said he 'would kill all Muslims'

A man accused of driving a van into a group of worshippers near a London mosque was trying to kill as many Muslims as possible, a court has been told.

Darren Osborne, 48, allegedly mowed down Makram Ali, 51, and nine other people in a north London street which was busy with worshippers attending Ramadan night prayers just after 12.15am on June 19 last year.

Osborne, of Glyn Rhosyn, in Cardiff, has denied charges of murder and attempted murder.

Jonathan Rees QC, opening the Crown's case, said Osborne was trying to kill "as many of the group as possible" when he deliberately drove a heavy box van into Muslims gathered at the junction of Seven Sisters Road and Whadcoat Street.

Mr Rees said the "act of extreme violence" was considered by the prosecution to be a terrorist attack.

"That was the motivation behind it, designed to influence Government and intimidate the Muslim community, and done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, ideological or racial cause," he told Woolwich Crown Court.

A police cordon after the Finsbury Park incident in June, 2017. Credit: PA
  • Defendant had become a 'ticking time-bomb'

The court heard that the Osborne's partner, Sarah Andrews, described him as a "loner and a functioning alcoholic" with an "unpredictable temperament".

According to a statement made in the days after the alleged attack, Ms Andrews, originally from Swindon, had been in a relationship with Osborne for about 20 years.

They moved to Wales in 2006 and have four children together, but she said they had been "estranged" and drifting apart for several years.

Osborne had become "obsessed" with Muslims in the weeks leading up to the incident after watching the BBC drama Three Girls, which was based on the true stories of victims of the Rochdale grooming gangs, she said.

A courtroom sketch of accused killer Darren Osborne. Credit: PA

It appeared to Ms Andrews that he was becoming brainwashed, and with the benefit of hindsight she described him a "ticking time-bomb", Mr Rees said.

During the weekend prior to the attack, the defendant was heard "preaching racial hatred" in a pub by Callum Spence, a soldier serving with the Royal Engineers.

Speaking with "passion and anger", he is said to have told the soldier: "I'm going to kill all the Muslims, Muslims are all terrorists. Your families are all going to be Muslim. I'm going to take it into my own hands."

  • Accused asked for directions to 'big mosque'

Osborne had driven from Cardiff to London the previous day, originally intending to drive the van into people taking part in the Al Quds Day march, but began looking for another target when this did not prove viable, Mr Rees said.

The court heard that the defendant had driven around London looking for mosques, stopping near the Blackhall Tunnel to ask a motorist for directions to Finsbury Park.

The driver allowed the defendant to follow him and he arrived in the Finsbury Park area at just before 11.30pm.

Mr Rees said he then approached people and enquired about the whereabouts of the Finsbury Park Mosque or "the big Mosque", claiming there was going to be a protest there.

Worshippers had congregated outside Finsbury Park mosque. Credit: PA

Mr Rees read out a handwritten note found in the cab of the van within hours of the alleged attack, which complained about terrorists on the streets and the Rotherham child exploitation scandal.

"This is happening up and down our green and pleasant land," the note read.

"Filthy, inbred, raping Muslim men, hunting in packs, preying on our children.

"Get back to the desert you raping, inbred bastards and climb back onto your camels."

The letter also branded Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn a "terrorist sympathiser" and attacked London mayor Sadiq Khan as a "disgrace".

  • Van driver 'constantly smiling'

Mr Ali's family were in court as CCTV footage was played to the jury, showing him collapsing shortly before a van drives in the group who had flocked to his aid.

In the footage, a white van can be seen turning sharply off the road, mounting the curb and ploughing into the group of people, some of whom later spill on to the adjacent bus lane as they attempt to pin down the driver.

Makram Ali, 51, died following the attack. Credit: ITV News

Several of those who went to help Mr Ali said he was "definitely alive" and conscious in the moments before being struck.

One male, who cradled Mr Ali's head, said he started mumbling before saying more clearly that he just wanted to go home and had attempted to get up.

Following the incident, a number of men tried to prevent the driver's escape and keep him pinned to the ground as he was heard to say "I want to kill more Muslims", Mr Rees continued.

Another man in the group remembered the defendant - who was "constantly smiling" after he had been detained - saying: "I've done my job, you can kill me now", he said.

Osborne initially claimed he had lost control of the van and had drunk a couple of pints, but a road-side breath test showed no alcohol in his system, Mr Rees said.

The trial, before Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb, is expected to last two weeks.