A Ukrainian student has been taken to court and charged with the murder of an elderly Muslim man and on terrorism charges.
Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, appeared at Westminster Magistrates Court yesterday accused of stabbing Mohammed Saleem, 82, to death in Birmingham and preparing terrorism acts against mosques in the West Midlands.
Mr Lapshyn spoke only to confirm his name and date of birth in a short hearing at Westminster Magistrates Court. Dressed in a black jumper and jogging bottoms he listened as four separate charges were read out by prosecutor Louise Gray.
The suspect agreed to appear without an interpreter, and was charged with the murder Mohammed Saleem, who was killed as he returned from prayers in Small Heath on April 29. He was also charged with preparing acts of terrorism between April 24 and July 18.
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It is alleged that between April 24 and July 18, Lapshyn purchased batteries, a lunch box and a green container as part of the construction of an explosive device.
It is also claimed that he carried out an internet research to identify locations to plant the explosive devices, and visited at least one area in the West Midlands to decide where explosive devices should be placed.
He is also accused of modifying mobile phones to act as detonators for explosive devices. Mr Lapshyn was charged with two further counts of causing two explosions likely to endanger life on June 26 in Walsall and July 12 in Tipton.
The Ukrainian was arrested on Thursday by police officers carrying out a counter terrorism investigation into three separate explosions near mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton.
Mr Lapshyn was on a work placement at software company Delcam in Small Heath, and was later arrested on suspicion of Mr Saleem’s murder on July 20.
Chief Magistrate Howard Riddle sent the case for a hearing at the Old Bailey on July 24. A preliminary hearing was set at the same court for August 2, whilst Mr Lapshyn was remanded in custody.
Mohammed Saleem died after being stabbed in the back in Green Lane, Small Heath, in Birmingham after attending prayers at his local mosque on April 29. He was stabbed three times and stamped on as he made his way back from his local mosque.
The father of seven was found by horrified neighbours in a pool of his own blood. Mr Saleem, a retired baker, suffered from arthritis and was walking with a stick when he was attacked. His wallet was not taken.
The stabbing of Mr Saleem, a highly-regarded and well-known figure in the local community, was described by detectives at the time as a “despicable” attack on a defenceless pensioner.
The killing, which was first treated as a racially motivated murder but then unexplained, is now being treated as an “act of terrorism”.
Woolwich murder and Islamophobia
Since the murder of British soldier, Lee Rigby on May 22 in Woolwich south east London, Islamophobic attacks have increased across Britain. Numerous mosques and Islamic centres have been fire bombed and targeted with bombs.
A mosque in Braintree, Essex and Gillingham, Kent was attacked on the evening of the Woolwich murder. A mosque in Bletchley, Milton Keynes and Grimsby Islamic Cultural Centre was fire bombed within days of the of the Woolwich incident. Al Rahma Islamic Centre in Muswell Hill, North London was torched to the ground with “EDL” painted on its walls. Darul Uloom in Chislehurst, Greater London was also set on fire weeks after the Woolwich attack.
A Muslim cemetery was desecrated with Islamophobic graffiti in Newport, Wales in June and an Islamic centre in Kirkcaldy, Scotland was also vandalised the night before the start of Ramadan.
A bomb was left at Aisha Mosque in Walsall on June 21 and at Kanz ul-Iman Jamia Mosque in Tipton on July 12 just after jummah prayers. Wolverhampton Central Mosque was also evacuated on July 18 after an explosive device was discovered next to the building.