Terrorist who plotted shooting of Christian preacher at Hyde Park jailed for life

Footage shows Edward Little lashing out and assaulting his interrogators after his plot to carry out a terror attack in Hyde Park was foiled, ITV London's Kaf Okpattah reports

An Islamic extremist who plotted a gun attack against a Christian preacher in London's Hyde Park has been sentenced to life in his absence.

Edward Little, 22, was travelling in a taxi from Brighton to the capital with £5,000 to buy the firearm and bullets when police swooped in on him on September 23 last year.

Investigators said he was just 10 minutes away from getting hold of the weapon, in south London, before he was stopped.

His target was a Christian preacher at Speaker’s Corner and anyone else who got in the way, a court was told.

Days before his arrest, he had identified the Queen's funeral at Westminster Abbey as another potential target.

Detective Chief Superintendent Olly Wright tells ITV News how police foiled Edward Little's plot, and how the terrorist lashed out at an officer while in custody

In May, Little, of Pelham Street, Brighton, admitted preparing terrorist acts, and was due in the dock at the Old Bailey today.

The court was told he had refused to attend his own sentencing, but lawyers were happy with the judge to go ahead without him.

Little's barrister, Tom Godfrey, said: “I was able to see Mr Little at the last aborted hearing…I do not see Mr Little’s non-attendance should stand in the way of proceedings today.” Judge Mrs Justice McGowan replied: “Absolutely not. He’s chosen not to attend, he’s chosen not to attend.”

In a televised hearing, Mrs Justice McGowan jailed Little for life with a minimum term of 16 years. She said Little knew that Speaker’s Corner was famous for freedom of speech and that an attack there would have sent a strong message. An attack at that location would have risked the lives of many people of all faiths and struck terror, she said.

Edward Little at the Old Bailey in London Credit: Elizabeth Cook/PA

The judge found Little’s attack plan was “viable” and Little posed a future danger to members of the public.

In the immediate aftermath of his arrest, Little declined to answer questions in police interviews but his mood changed when he was shown a YouTube view of the preacher. He launched himself from his chair across the table at an officer, swinging repeatedly with his fists before being restrained. He went on to admit assaulting the officer at Newbury Police Station last September 28 and was sentenced to eight months in prison.

As part of his preparations, Little, who is thought to have had looked up different guns and their capabilities and arranged to buy one for £5,000.

As he set off on September 23 2022, Little agreed to pay the taxi driver £300 to take him to Lewisham, south London, saying money was no problem. When arrested, he was carrying a rucksack with £5,000 in cash, a passport and two mobile phones.

Police later found an encrypted chat on one phone, setting out his attack plan and the gun purchase. Little had been due to stand trial on July 10 for the terrorism offence before pleading guilty.

In November three members of an organised crime gang were jailed for their part in selling a firearm to Little, although they did not know what it was for.

UK-born Little was said to have converted to Islam at Cookham Wood Young Offender Institution in Kent and at HMP Deerbolt in County Durham, after he turned 18.

In summer last year, he downloaded extremist propaganda including copies of the al-Qaida publication Inspire, the Old Bailey previously heard.

Little knew Speaker’s Corner was famous for freedom of speech and that an attack there would have sent a strong message, the court heard. Credit: Carole Lloyd/Alamy/PA

He discussed his plans including his desire to get hold of a Mac-10 submachine gun and AK-47 assault rifle with extremists in encrypted chats on the Threema messaging platform.

At one point, he wrote: “I don’t think there has been an attack in the UK with guns so a semi-automatic rifle would send a even stronger message.”

On September 18 last year, Little identified the Queen’s funeral – due to be held at Westminster Abbey the following day – as a possible target.

It was suggested that “tyrants of the earth” would be there, to which Little responded: “I was just thinking that but unfortunately it’s too late.”

Prosecutor Duncan Penny KC had said Little planned to kill the Christian preacher Hatun Tash at Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park, anyone with her, as well as an police officers or soldiers in the area.

In his chats on Threema, Little referred to the well-known preacher who regularly debates Islam as an “evil witch” and said he could shoot her “point blank” and “everyone with her”. Little said he would wear a camera so he could live-stream the attack. Last September 17, Little claimed that he “100%” had a “brother in prison” who would be joining in the “operation”. He said he would travel to London for reconnaissance and see if it was best to “have us hit separate targets”. Little had also pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to a fellow inmate at Belmarsh prison on April 3. He attacked the victim with boiling water mixed with sugar and two razor blades for “disrespecting” his religion. Mrs Justice McGowan jailed Little for four years for that offence to run concurrently with his life sentence. Previously, Little had been convicted of 14 offences in seven separate cases, including for robbery, having a knife and drug dealing, dating back to 2017.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know...