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Finsbury Park terror attack: Darren Osborne ‘had corresponded with Britain First and said Labour was going to the dogs’

PUBLISHED: 13:17 23 January 2018 | UPDATED: 13:23 23 January 2018

A police cordon at the scene of the attack last year. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

A police cordon at the scene of the attack last year. Picture: Yui Mok/PA Wire

Darren Osborne, the man accused of carrying out the Finsbury Park terror attack, had corresponded with far-right activist Jayda Fransen, a court heard.

A forensic tent at the scene of the attack in June last year, where Makram Ali, 51, died. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA WireA forensic tent at the scene of the attack in June last year, where Makram Ali, 51, died. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire

Today is the second day of the 48-year-old’s trial. In the weeks leading up to the attack, Woolwich Crown Court heard, he had received a direct message from Britain First deputy leader Fransen on Twitter – though the contents of this message weren’t shared in the court.

The court heard Osborne also made regular Google searches for Fransen – whose anti-Muslim tweets were recently shared by US president Donald Trump – as well as other far-right activists such as Paul Golding and Tommy Robinson.

According to web history on two phones and an iPad seized by police, Osborne had also read numerous articles aligned against Jeremy Corbyn, the Islington North MP and Labour Party leader who lives near the scene of the Finsbury Park attack. One was entitled: “Why you shouldn’t vote for Jeremy Corbyn.”

In the early hours of June 19, a van – said to be driven by Osborne – mowed down a crowd of people on the pavement in Seven Sisters Road, near its junction with Whadcoat Street.

They were gathered around Makram Ali, 51, who had collapsed. The men had been at Muslim Welfare House for Ramadan night prayers. Mr Ali died as a result of the attack, and nine others were injured.

The court heard how Osborne borrowed the van at Pontyclun Van Hire in Wales on June 17. Receptionist Sian Ellway said in a statement, read out by prosecutor Jonathan Rees: “He knew what type of van he wanted to hire. He wanted a Luton van. He was a normal male hiring a vehicle. He was polite and well mannered.”

Makram Ali, 51, died in the attack. Picture: Met PoliceMakram Ali, 51, died in the attack. Picture: Met Police

Later that night, the court heard, Osborne drank San Miguel pints at a pub, the Hollybush in Cardiff. He asked Sarah Jenkins, the barmaid, for a pen so he could “write a letter to parliament”. She caught a glimpse of the letter when he returned to the bar for another pint. “It appeared to be very scruffy,” she said in a statement, “as if it had been written with passion. He said to me: ‘There’s a lot of raping and pillaging out there.’”

Mr Rees read out a statement from Andrew Parker, the pub landlord, who recalled: “He was talking about Jeremy Corbyn, saying Labour had gone to the dogs. He kept talking about politics. He appeared to be mentally out of it, disturbed. It was clear his views were anti-Muslim. He upset customers with his views but I don’t remember him being directly aggressive.”

Callum Spence, a soldier with the British Army, was drinking at the pub and took to the witness stand in court. “I came inside to buy a round of beers for the lads,” he recalled, “and heard the word ‘terrorist’. It was Darren Osborne. I heard him saying all families were going to be Muslim. I went to ask what was going on.”

With Osborne staring at him intently from the dock, Mr Spence went on: “He wasn’t really looking at me, not really putting a sentence together. I tried to calm him down. He was just talking at me. He said he was a British soldier. Me being a soldier, I hate stolen valour and challenged him straight away.”

Osborne was eventually told to leave, the court heard. Mr Spence said he downed his pint and slammed the glass down.

Osborne, who appeared in court today wearing a navy shirt, denies murder and attempted murder. He has not been charged with any terrorist offences, but Mr Rees made clear yesterday, the first day of the trial, that the incident was an “act of terrorism”.

File court artist sketch of Darren Osborne, who is accused of carrying out the Finsbury Park terror attack. Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA WireFile court artist sketch of Darren Osborne, who is accused of carrying out the Finsbury Park terror attack. Picture: Elizabeth Cook/PA Wire

The trial continues.

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