Teen jailed for life over plot to stab police and soldiers in UK

A life sentence with a minimum term of six years has been handed to a 19-year-old man for plotting to stab police officers and soldiers. Matthew King, who embraced extreme Islamism during the lockdown, was potentially hours away from executing an attack when authorities apprehended him. King’s mother, who reported her concerns to the police, was commended by the judge. In January, King admitted to preparing terrorist acts between December 2021 and May 17, 2022, at the Old Bailey.

Judge Mark Lucraft KC, while sentencing King, clarified that the minimum term does not guarantee his release. The parole board will decide whether King will be released after serving the minimum term. If released, King will be on licence for life and subject to recall if deemed a risk to public safety.

Authorities believe that King transformed from a “troubled young man” to a potential “self-initiated terrorist” during the Covid-19 lockdowns. Cdr Dominic Murphy, the Met’s head of counter-terrorism, stated that King harboured extreme anti-Western views and intended to carry out a terrorist attack either in the UK or abroad. King’s extremist views were imminent, according to Cdr Murphy.

Prosecutor Paul Jarvis revealed that King had experimented with drugs since early secondary school and was expelled, leaving education at 16 without any qualifications. He converted to Islam in 2020, and his behaviour initially improved. However, in 2021, he started criticising his sisters’ attire for being immodest. His mother contacted the government anti-extremism agency, Prevent, fearing the videos he watched promoted hatred.

King was arrested at his Wickford, Essex residence on May 18 last year. Examination of his phone showed evidence of him viewing extremist videos, convincing him to kill or torture a British soldier either in the UK or abroad. He had also joined an online chat group discussing terrorist funding and travel routes to Syria. His WhatsApp status was changed to “kill non-Muslims,” and he recorded himself rapping about fellow terrorists in Belmarsh Prison and detonating a bomb.

In the weeks leading up to his arrest in 2022, King conducted reconnaissance in east London, focusing on police officers patrolling outside Stratford railway station, as well as Stratford police station and magistrates’ court. A video found on his phone near the police station featured a soundtrack with the words: “Coldly kill them with hate and rage. Plan your perfect killing spree.”

On May 17, 2022, CCTV footage captured him filming outside the 7 Rifles army barracks in east London. King purchased military goggles and gloves, carried a balaclava and a “shihada” jihadist flag, and occasionally donned combat clothing to the mosque. Several mosques he attended warned him about his behaviour, and one declared him unwelcome.

Members of the public who alerted the police about King included individuals from two WhatsApp groups he had joined, Southend Brothers and Southend Shurah. King was placed under surveillance, and his social media posts of police officers captioned “Target Acquired” raised concerns about his rapid progression towards an attack, leading to his arrest.

Evidence of King attempting to purchase a hunting knife online aided police in building a case against him. Although he never acquired a weapon, authorities believe he could have easily obtained a kitchen knife for attacks. Potential terrorists often favour larger hunting knives for their shock value. Police also discovered Snapchat messages King sent to a sixth-form girl, discussing their desire to mutilate members of the British and American armed forces and travel to Syria to become martyrs.

World News

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Jamie Cartwright

Jamie is a keen traveler, writer, and (English) teacher. A few years after finishing school in the East Mids, UK, he went traveling around South America and Asia. Several teaching and writing jobs, he found himself at The Thaiger where he mostly covers international news and events.