A homegrown Islamic State supporter who “hated the UK” wanted to “blow St Paul’s Cathedral to the ground” in an Easter terror attack designed to kill as many people as possible, a court heard.
Muslim convert Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a 37-year-old mother from Hayes in west London, said she wanted to “destroy” the historic monument, and carried out a reconnaissance mission to aid her bloody plot, the court heard.
But her murderous plans were thwarted when she confided in an associate on a secret messaging app, unaware he was an undercover police officer.
Shaikh – formerly known as Michelle Ramsden – admits preparation of terrorist acts and dissemination of terrorist publication.
During the first day of her sentencing hearing at the Old Bailey on Monday, prosecutor Alison Morgan QC described the defendant as being “fully committed to violent extremism”.
Ms Morgan said: “She engaged with others, who she believed to be of a similar mindset, to instigate and plan a terrorist attack involving the use of improvised explosives to attack St Paul’s Cathedral and a hotel nearby.
“In furtherance of her attack plan, she visited the cathedral to assess its security arrangement and the best place to detonate a bomb.
“She stated that her intention was to kill herself and as many other people as possible.”
The court heard Shaikh travelled to central London on September 7 2019, ready to attend morning prayers at St Paul’s the next day to scope out security protocol and work out how to carry out her plan, with the ultimate aim of achieving martyrdom.
The court heard she confessed online: “I would like bomb (sic) and shoot til death. But if that not possible I do other way. Belt or anything. I just want a lot to die. InshaAllah.”
She said the plot was the “best opportunity of my life”, and described how she would borrow her daughter’s non-Islamic clothes in an effort to avoid detection, the court heard.
Shaikh described there being little attention from security during her reconnaissance visit to St Paul’s, which lasted around an hour, telling the undercover officer: “This most famous church to King and Queen. All there (sic) weddings been there hundreds of years.
“I really thought it would not be possible. But it easy.”
The court heard how she had previous convictions for burglary and heroin possession, and had a history of depression.
She added: “I want do something in hotel and church. Than (sic) run and kill kuffar (non-Muslims) everywhere I see them until am shot down. Is this possible.. And to get weapons.
“If I had choice I blow the church to ground. With kuffar in it.”
Shaikh later met with a second undercover officer in person to chat about the plot.
The court heard she confided: “It’s hard, I want Allah to forgive me for everything… I want forgiveness for everything in my life that I’ve done you know.”
Police stormed Shaikh’s home in October after she called off meeting the undercover officer at late notice.
In an interview she said she had “doubts” about the plot, but said: “I hated the UK… I felt a lot of hate and anger… I had hate for the police.”
The court heard Shaikh had converted to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of a local Muslim family.
But she became increasingly disillusioned by what she saw as the mosques’ moderate version of Islam, and “was keen to boast” about the extremist propaganda she posted online, encouraging others to commit acts of violence in the name of so-called Islamic State, the prosecutor said.
The sentencing hearing was adjourned to be continued at a later date.