Man admits London Disney Store terror plot to kill 100 people – The Guardian

A man has pleaded guilty to a terrorist plot to drive a van into shoppers outside a Disney store on Oxford Street in London, with the hope of killing 100 people.

Lewis Ludlow, 26, pledged allegiance to Islamic State and was caught by a joint police and MI5 operation.

Ludlow, from Rochester in Kent, pleaded guilty on Friday at a pre-trial hearing.

He had researched how to carry out the attack, targets, hotel accommodation and van rental options. The planned attack, where a vehicle would be driven into a crowd, was reminiscent of two atrocities in London in 2017 at Westminster Bridge and then London Bridge.

Prior to Ludlow’s arrest, counter-terrorism investigators searched bins at his home where they recovered ripped-up notes containing details of his planned attack. The notes named targets and said he hoped to murder 100 people.

A mobile phone was dredged from a storm drain at Ludlow’s home also prior to his arrest. It contained hostile reconnaissance photos from a trip in March to London as well as a written oath of allegiance to Isis.

The phone additionally contained videos featuring Ludlow in which he talked of his hatred of unbelievers, and described himself as an Isis soldier and called himself “the Eagle”.

Prosecutors accepted he could not drive and would need other people to help him carry out the plot.

Ludlow will be sentenced in November and faces a long prison sentence. He was a former follower of Anjem Choudary, the terrorist propagandist and preacher who helped motivate at least 100 young people to turn to terrorism in Britain and Europe.

He had set up a Facebook page called Antique Collections as a cover to send money to jihadist terrorists in the Philippines.

Ludlow pleaded guilty to planning the attack and also to funding terrorists overseas. He was also charged with trying to join Isis in the Philippines which he denied. That charge will not be pursued, after his guilty pleas.

He was arrested on 18 April after being placed under armed surveillance, a sign of how dangerous Ludlow and his plot were believed to be by investigators.

He had also considered staging his atrocity at St Paul’s Cathedral and the Madame Tussaud’s tourist attraction in London.

In one note, Ludlow said of Oxford Street: “it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack … It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack”.

Ludlow first came to the notice of counter-terrorism officers in 2010 when he was part of an event involving Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun extremist group.

In 2015 pro-Isis propaganda was found on an electronic device belonging to Ludlow, but no action was taken.

In February 2018 he was stopped from flying to the Philippines and claimed to British police he was going there to be a sex tourist.

He was in contact with a terrorist suspect in the Philippines and used the fake Facebook antiques page to send him money.

Undercover officers engaged the terror suspect in the Philippines, called Abu Yaqeen, in online conversations. He named Ludlow as a person who may be interested in helping to stage an attack in Britain.

Det Ch Supt Kath Barnes, the head of south-east counter-terrorism policing, said: “Ludlow was a dangerous individual and I have no doubt that the public will be much safer as a result of our actions.

Deb Walsh, of the Crime Prosecution Service, said: “Lewis Ludlow considers himself a soldier fighting for Daesh [Isis] in the UK.

“To that end he planned to drive a van into shoppers at Oxford Street hoping to kill over a hundred people.

“He also set up a fake online antiques business as a front to send money to terrorists overseas.

“He is a serious danger to the public and accepted his guilt when faced with the prosecution’s case against him.”