Ex-British intelligence worker admits trying to murder US security official

Joshua Bowles pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey in London and awaits sentencing

Joshua Bowles has pleaded guilty to attempted murder at London's Old Bailey. Court artist sketch by Elizabeth Cook
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A former British intelligence worker has admitted attempting to murder an American security official in a knife attack outside a leisure centre.

Joshua Bowles pleaded guilty at London's Old Bailey on Wednesday to punching and stabbing the woman on March 9.

The attack happened about 5km from the UK's GCHQ intelligence agency base in Cheltenham, where Bowles worked until 2022. The victim works for the US National Security Agency (NSA) and was based at GCHQ.

The 29-year-old had been charged with attempted murder, as well as assaulting a man, causing him actual bodily harm, following an investigation by counter-terrorism police.

He attacked the victim because, in his mind, she represents the state.

Bowles targeted his victim, referred to in charges only by the code number 99230, because he believed she represented the state.

The court heard Bowles researched the victim and other US citizens who worked at the site, but was no longer employed there at the time of the attack.

Armed with two knives, he attacked the woman as she left the leisure centre with a friend.

The victim had been playing netball at the leisure centre and Bowles attempted to stab her in the car park. The victim and her friend managed to escape and ran back into the leisure centre.

Bowles followed them and he attacked the victim again inside with one of the knives, before she fled to a netball court.

The victim was taken to hospital after suffering several stab wounds.

Bowles also punched a man after being confronted in the car park.

During Bowles’s first appearance at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, prosecutor Kathryn Selby said the case, which she said involved a “planned attack”, should be dealt with under the terrorism protocol.

“The defendant has selected the victim because he believed she is a worker for GCHQ and holds views on the work he believes they conduct," she told the court.

“He attacked the victim because, in his mind, she represents the state.”

After the hearing on Wednesday, Nick Price, head of the CPS Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division, said the attack was "completely unprovoked".

“This extremely violent attack against two innocent people was completely unprovoked," he said.

“It is right that those who commit violent crimes like this should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law to protect the public, and our thoughts continue to be with the victims and their families.”

Detective Chief Superintendent Olly Wright, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, said: “Through our extensive and thorough investigation, it is clear that Bowles had selected his victim because of where she worked.

“I am pleased that Bowles has taken the decision to plead guilty to these crimes due to the strength of our investigation and evidence against him. This will thankfully spare the victims from having to go through the traumatic process of reliving the events of that day through the trial process.”

Mrs Justice Cheema-Grubb told Bowles she hoped for sentencing before the end of October.

Updated: August 30, 2023, 4:01 PM