A Muslim convert intent on becoming the UK’s first homegrown female suicide bomber has been jailed for life for plotting to blow up London’s historic St Paul’s Cathedral.
Safiyya Shaikh, 37, told police that she wanted to carry out a suicide bombing like the 2019 Easter Sunday terror attack in Sri Lanka that killed more than 250 people.
Her plans came to light when she tried to get help from a fellow extremist and bomb-making expert but failed to realise he was an undercover police officer.
Her legal team had claimed she had got cold feet and would not have gone through with the plot but a judge sentenced her to life in jail on Thursday and would serve a minimum sentence of 14 years.
The hearing was delayed after it emerged that Shaikh was recorded on a prison telephone call to a friend dismissing her lawyer’s claims that she would not carry out the attack. “I didn’t get cold feet…. I was ready to go through with it,” she said.
Justice Sweeney told the woman: “I had already reached the sure conclusion in the original evidence that your claim of doubt to the police and others was a lie. Your intention had been - and remained throughout - strong.”
Police said she planned to leave a bomb at St Paul’s before detonating her suicide vest on an underground commuter train soon after. She wanted to inspire other extremists from beyond the grave and had posted graphic videos of terrorist killings online.
Richard Smith, the head of London’s counter-terrorist police unit, said: “Shaikh was dedicated to her extremist beliefs. In addition to wanting to carry out her own sickening attack on UK soil, she hoped to inspire others to implement attack plans even after she had died.”
Shaikh, from London, had scoped out St Paul’s in September 2019 and concluded that it would be easy to smuggle a bomb into the church, where the heir to the British throne, Prince Charles, married his first wife Diana in 1981.
Police stormed her home the next month after she failed to show up for a meeting with the ‘wife’ of the bomb-making expert to discuss how the plot would be carried out.
The current St Paul’s, with its domed roof, was completed in 1710 after its predecessor burned down in the 1666 Great Fire of London. A cathedral has stood on the site for more than 1,400 years.