Detectives who helped foil terror plot on East Anglian airbases win top award
PUBLISHED: 16:14 14 October 2016 | UPDATED: 16:14 14 October 2016
Scotland Yard detectives who foiled a plot to kill US soldiers near RAF bases in East Anglia have won the Detective Investigation of the Year category in the Police Federation’s prestigious National Detective Awards.
Earlier this year 25-year-old delivery driver Junead Khan was sentenced to a minimum of 12 years in prison after he was convicted of planning a Lee Rigby-style attack near to airbases, including RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall.
It followed an investigation led by Detective Superintendent Peter Holdcroft and Detective Chief Inspector Mike Jolly, from SO15 - the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command - who mounted a fast-moving probe to neutralise the threat to military service personnel and the general public.
Surveillance, firearms, uniform and undercover teams, amongst many others, recovered vital evidence that ultimately led to the terrorists’ conviction.
In June 2015, intelligence identified a possible terrorist attack – Junead Khan of Luton - planned to stage a road traffic accident with his intended victim to withdraw him from his car before killing him with a knife in a ‘Lee Rigby-style attack.
He also planned to have on him an explosive device which could be detonated to prevent his own capture alive.
Khan had a history of mental health problems and was known to hold extremist views.
Due to the significant threat posed, Khan was placed under 24/7 armed surveillance.
His behaviour became cause for concern and evidence gathered from his phone indicated terrorist activity and a planned attack. Khan had also got hold of instructions to build a pressure cooker bomb.
Two undercover officers approached the man at his workplace, and at this point he was arrested by armed officers.
At the same time, rapid entry teams searched two addresses which resulted in the recovery of digital material which led to the arrest of a relative for suspicion of involvement in the plot.
Crucially, the recovery of the phone led to the discovery of conversations that had taken place with an IS fighter based in Syria. Contained within those messages were detailed plans of the attack and the intention to martyr himself once confronted by police.
Following seven days of detention, the Khan was charged with terrorism act offences in relation to his planning of an attack against military personnel in the UK. Together with his uncle Shazib Khan, they were both jointly charged with another terrorism offence relating to their preparation for travel overseas to Syria to conduct terrorist acts abroad.
The investigation, which uncovered a direct link to Islamic State (IS) in Syria, tried untested forensic methods that have never been used in the world before to lead the way in forensic chemical analysis, securing the Metropolitan Police with key evidence to support a charge.
In May 2016 Khan was convicted at crown court and sentenced to life imprisonment for the UK attack planning offence. He and his uncle were sentenced to 8 and 13 years respectively regarding their preparation to conduct terrorist acts overseas.
The trial judge, praising the SO15 team, described the case as a ‘model investigation.’
Det Supt Holdcroft said: “It’s a real privilege that this investigation has been recognised; working together we have managed to bring about a significant successful prosecution which hopefully will send a message to those planning future threats.
“In the current climate, the threat in this country remains severe, so an attack could be highly likely.
However, we continue to work with our partners and other agencies, gathering intelligence from a wide range of sources to mitigate the threat.”
DCI Jolly said: “The importance of investigations conducted jointly with other agencies continues to be paramount to keep the public safe. We are grateful for the help of our fellow investigators and for the continued support of the public.”