An unrepentant Muslim convert who was on course to become the UK’s first female homegrown suicide bomber has been jailed for a minimum of 14 years for plotting a terror attack at St Paul’s Cathedral.
Safiyya Shaikh, a 37-year-old mother from Hayes in west London, extensively researched how to cause maximum carnage at the visitor attraction and place of worship, saying she wanted “a lot to die” before being killed herself so she could reach paradise.
Shaikh’s murderous plans came to fruition when she sought help from a bomb-making expert who she believed to be a willing co-conspirator – only to find it was an undercover officer.
She admitted preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publications on the internet.
Shaikh’s defence team said she had “doubts” over the plot. But moments before the judge was due to sentence her on Thursday, prosecutors disclosed details of a phone call to a friend from prison last week in which Shaikh said: “I didn’t get cold feet, yeah – I was ready to go through with it.”
Sentencing Shaikh to life with a minimum term of 14 years at the Old Bailey on Friday, Mr Justice Sweeney said: “I had already reached the sure conclusion in the original evidence that your claim of doubt to the police and others was a lie.
“Your intention had been – and remained throughout – strong.”
Shaikh, who sat in the dock wearing a black hijab with her head bowed, showed little emotion as the sentence was read out.
She smiled and raised her index finger to members of the press as she was led from court after sentencing.
Police said heroin user Shaikh had never expressed regret or remorse for her actions, and had planned to leave a bomb at the London landmark before detonating her suicide vest on an Underground train moments later.
She also developed a reputation for her extremist propaganda posts online.
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, said: “She loved watching graphic videos of terrorist killings and her mission … was to inspire others to fight, even after she hoped to have died in a suicide attack.
“She was so serious about her propaganda work, she wanted to ensure it would continue even after she had died.
“Shaikh was clearly dangerous. She was spreading vile directives for mass murder across the world and also planning her own horrific terrorist attack on UK soil.”
The court heard Shaikh, born Michelle Ramsden, suffered a “truly traumatic childhood”, and had her daughter at a young age.
She converted to Islam in 2007 when she was impressed by the kindness of a local Muslim family.
But her view of Islam became increasingly extremist, and she stopped attending mosques.
She was also engaged on the Government’s anti-radicalisation strategy Prevent.