Residents across Stafford are today calling for a change in the law after it was announced the London Bridge terrorist was living in the area after being released from prison.
They are proposing that convicted terrorists must sign a sex offender-style national register that will allow local residents and neighbours to be notified of anyone convicted on terrorism offences living in the area.
The London Bridge attacker, Usman Khan, was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent. In 2010, Khan and eight others were arrested and sentenced for a foiled plot that involved plans to bomb the London Stock Exchange, Stoke pubs and clubs, then-London Mayor Boris Johnson and more.
On his release from prison on licence in December 2018, Khan moved to Stafford, while following strict licence arrangements including wearing a GPS ankle monitor, no access to internet devices, and presumed barring from contacting anyone involved in the foiled 2010 plot.
Lindsey Bates, 29, of Read Avenue in Stafford said: “I think there should be a register for convicted terrorists so we are fully aware [of]who we have in our community.
“A bit like a sex offender has to go and sign a register, they should have to attend somewhere like a probation office or a police station to do the exact same.
“I think they should be made to sign a register and be GPS tracked.”
Asked on her reaction to the news that the London Bridge attacker was living locally, Lindsey said: “My first reaction was shock, I couldn’t believe that such a small military town has such offenders living in the vicinity.”
They said: “I’ve walked past him many times, to think he could have had the knife on him, that vest under his jacket, right next to me is so worrying.
“If he wanted to cause harm, he could have targeted any of us. There are children all around here, mothers, young lads. Any one of us could have been his victim.”
Asked about their personal experiences with Mr Khan, the resident said: “I’ve walked past him many times, he goes to the shops fairly regularly – [the corner store]was his main one.
“He didn’t seem fully normal, never smiled or said ‘hi’, and a few times he looked towards me with a weird sort of face – like a face of disgust or extreme anger. I just thought he was odd that’s all.
“Knowing what he’s done now, it just creeps me out the way he looked at me those times.”
When asked by StaffsLive if they backed calls for a change in the law around those convicted of terror offences, they were enthusiastically in support.
They said: “Being told that someone in the area had been to prison for terrorism charges would give so much peace of mind to residents.
“We could warn our children not to talk to someone in particular, we would know particular signs to be aware of, show keepers would know to be suspicious if they sold certain items to them, and could therefore warn police at a much earlier time.
“Imagine if we could have warned police two weeks ago, a month ago, that a known convicted terrorist was seen buying knives, duct tape, wires and cheap phones?
“We could only realistically do this if we knew who the people were in our community that we should keep an extra eye on.”
Shariah Mear, 25, of Rosewood Gardens said: “It’s made me question who else they let live around here and walk amongst us.
“The proper system should be that he’s not allowed out – but that’s never going to happen so if they’re going to let them out, the information should be known to the public.
“I would rather know to avoid the guy or not live next to him, rather than being oblivious to the dangers he could put me and my family in.”
She added: “Everybody deserves the right to know who their neighbours are – he lost his right to privacy when he decided to be a terrorist.
“If people knew what his past was then maybe they would have reported him acting suspiciously way before this incident ever happened.”
Alex Wagner, Liberal Democrats candidate for the Stafford seat said: “We need to tackle the roots of radicalization in our society, and we need to ensure that nobody growing up or living in our area turns to vile acts of terror.
“Liberal Democrats are committed to being tough on the causes of crime, that is the longer-term solution.”
A special report produced by StaffsLive this week learned that the major al-Muhajiroun training camp for UK fighters was located just hours away from the Khan family compound in Pakistan he visited in 2004, and immediately after returning to the UK the London Bridge attacker began associations with al-Muhajiroun terrorists, became a member of the now-proscribed terror group, and in Cobridge he set up a weekly stall handing out material backed by the group.
Before he flew out, he didn’t have links to the terror group, didn’t have friends from within the group, and was described as shy in school by his classmates. This all changed immediately after his return.
StaffsLive reached out to the Labour and Conservative candidates in the Stafford constituency for comment.