'Shocking' Anzac Day plot uncovered after police decoded teenager's messages

The teenager was 14 at the time of his arrest in April. Credit: ITV News/Priscilla Coleman

ITV News UK Editor Rohit Katchroo reports.

A 15-year-old British boy has been sentenced to life for his involvement in a terror plot targeting an Anzac Day parade in Australia.

The teenager from Blackburn, Lancashire, who a judge has ruled cannot be identified, will serve at least five years after pleading guilty to inciting terrorism.

The boy, was 14 at the time of his arrest in April, making him Britain's youngest terrorist.

Mr Justice Saunders said he had faced a "difficult sentencing exercise" and whilst he acknowledged the positive progress made by the defendant, he had "no doubt a significant risk remains".

The teenager had exchanged more than 3000 messages with an alleged Australian jihadist in a plot to behead police officers in Melbourne, the court heard.

One of the 'chilling' messages sent by the British teenager to an Australian Sevdet Besim. Credit: ITV News

The plot

The youngster is said to have taken on the role of "organiser and adviser" to 18-year-old Sevdet Besim as the pair planned the attack and discussed targets, weapons and method of killing among other things.

In one exchange, Besim messaged: "So far the plan is to run a cop over on the anzac parade & then continue to kill a cop then take ghanimah and run to shahadah?"

The Lancashire teenager then responded: "Ill give orders soon but its looking along that line."

The plan was to stage the attack on the centenary of the First World War Anzac landings on 25 April. Credit: Reuters

The plot was said to be in its "late stages" when authorities in Britain and Australia intervened after police became aware of the 14-year-old's involvement, when he arrested in March on suspicion of threats to kill his teachers.

A screenshot of one of the teenager's conversations with Sevdet Besim. Credit: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire

He was re-arrested on April 2 when "disturbing material" was found on electronic devices seized from his bedroom.

The wallpaper on the defendant's phone discovered hidden under his mattress by police Credit: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire

The Muslim youth denied he had any intention of engaging in terrorism and had not contacted the Australian, known then only as Ilyas.

An officer from the North West Counter Terrorism Unit (NWCRU) eventually decoded their encrypted messages and shared the information with police in Melbourne.

Det Ch Supt Tony Mole, said: "If officers from the hi-tech unit of the NWCTU had not been able to develop a bespoke program to read the boy's messages, it is likely someone would have been seriously injured or killed."

Besim was detained on April 18 and found to be in possession of a knife which he had previously shown the British teenager in a photograph, who at the time said: "Handle is perfect for tearing through throat."

The 'Rambo' knife which the pair discussed online prior to their arrests. Credit: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire

Mr Besim is currently awaiting trial in Australia.

Alleged jihadist Sevdet Besim pictured after his arrest in Australia. Credit: Reuters

In a statement issued on behalf of the British teenager's family, solicitor Daniel King said they had been "shocked and devastated" by his arrest.

Chief Constable Tim Jacques from Lancashire Police said at the time of his arrest the boy was subject to local safeguarding arrangements due to his extremist behaviour.

"Concerns were shared with us by partners and this led ultimately to the disruption of this evil plan".

A religious box with Islamic State written on it was discovered during a search of the boy's home. Credit: Greater Manchester Police/PA Wire

Sue Hemming, head of the Crown Prosecution Services' special crime and counter terrorism division said the plan was "shocking in its brutality and scope."