‘A lot of people were splattered all over the place,’ van attack trial told
Witnesses describe the ‘chaotic’ scenes when worshippers leaving mosque were mown down
26 January, 2018 — By Emily Finch
The court was shown footage of a man police identified as Darren Osborne after the attack
VICTIMS of the Finsbury Park van attack – some struggling to walk and talk above a whisper – gave evidence in court on Wednesday.
The attack saw grandfather Makram Ali, 51, run over by a van and killed after he fell down near the Muslim Welfare House mosque, in Seven Sisters Road, shortly after midnight on June 19 last year. Other mosque worshippers suffered life-changing injuries.
Witnesses speaking in court described how Mr Ali was alive before a van allegedly driven by Darren Osborne, 48, ran over him, leaving a tyre print on his chest.
Mr Osborne, who lived in Cardiff, is on trial at Woolwich Crown Court charged with murder and attempted murder. He denies both counts.
Mohammed Geedi, 28, who had attended late-night prayer at the mosque, said he saw the van moments before it ploughed into him in Whadcoat Street.
“I could hear a rev. I could hear the change from gear one, [the driver] accelerating, holding the clutch and then to gear two so the car could pick up the pace,” he said.
Grandfather Makram Ali died after being hit by van
“A lot of people were splattered all over the place.”
Another victim, who entered the court on crutches, detailed the moments leading up to him being pinned under the van.
Finsbury Park resident Hamdi Alfaiq, 38, had rushed to Mr Ali’s aid after he saw him fall in the street.
“I put water on his head and he smiled at me,” he said. “I then saw a shadow. I thought it was an ambulance. It hit my face. I was [then] lying down on my chest and once I woke up I felt pain.”
The court heard Mr Alfaiq suffered “serious and life-changing injuries”, including multiple rib fractures and a complex fracture of the pelvis.
The court was played harrowing clips of a 999-call made by Adnan Mahmoud, who had initially called an ambulance for Mr Ali but remained on the phone while the van careered down Whadcoat Street.
In the clip, which lasts around three minutes, screaming is heard and Mr Mahmoud’s panicked voice telling the 999 operator: “A van ran over everyone. People are stuck. They are under the f***ing van.”
Police at the scene the morning after
The court heard Mr Mahmoud has suffered from depression and shock after the attack.
Muslim Welfare House imam Mohammed Mahmoud described the “chaotic” night.
He had seen people go towards Mr Osborne. “I pushed them away as I saw someone lean down and punch him,” he told the court.
“I shouted: ‘No one touch him.’ I told people to get back and hand him unscathed to the police.”
Asked why he stepped in, Mr Mahmoud said: “It was a natural response. He posed no harm to anybody.
“He was immobilised. He wasn’t a threat therefore should answer for his crime in a court such as this, not in a court in the street.”
Police officer David Jones, one of the first officers on the scene, filmed on his body-worn camera Mr Osborne’s anti-Muslim rant outside Islington police station.
In the footage played in court, Mr Osborne is heard saying: “My head’s f**ked” following a minutes-long rant where he compares Muslims to “animals”.
PC Jones said: “He said it was hatred. It was disgusting.”
The trial continues.
‘Drama triggered anti-Islam obsession’
A BBC drama was the “catalyst” for the Finsbury Park van attacker, “brainwashed” by anti-Islam material online, becoming obsessed with Muslims, the court heard on Monday, writes Emily Finch.
The trial was told that Mr Osborne had threatened to take his life on two occasions. His former partner, Sarah Andrews, described him as a “loner and a functioning alcoholic” who was “very unpredictable due to his temperament”.
Although Mr Osborne lived with Ms Andrews and his four children, she said “their relationship had been effectively over for a year”.
In a statement written a day after the attack, Ms Andrews said: “It was as if he was brainwashed. He was on his phone looking at Twitter, watching videos, which are all anti-Muslim.”
She detailed how one of Mr Osborne’s daughters became terrified of bringing Muslim friends home in case her father was there.
For the prosecution, Jonathan Rees QC said: “The catalyst for his obsession appears to have been the broadcast of the BBC drama Three Girls.”
The drama, which aired just a month before the attack last year, focused on child sexual exploitation perpetrated by men mostly of Pakistani origin in Rochdale, Greater Manchester.
Mr Rees added: “He started researching associated topics on the internet, including material featuring Tommy Robinson, the co-founder and former spokesperson of the English Defence League.”
A handwritten note written by Mr Osborne, recovered from the van within hours of the attack, was also read out in court.
In the note, he described Islington North MP Jeremy Corbyn as a “terrorist sympathiser” and taunted Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
Although Mr Osborne is not charged with a terrorism offence, Mr Rees described his actions as an “act of terrorism”.
He said: “[His actions were] designed to influence government and intimidate the Muslim community, and done for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, ideological or racial cause.”