A British Daesh supporter who plotted to bomb London's St Paul's Cathedral and a nearby hotel and then blow herself up in a suicide attack on the London Underground has been sentenced to life in prison. In court, Safiyya Amira Shaikh admitted to planning acts of terrorism and sharing information which encouraged others to do the same.
Shaikh, who wore a black hijab in court, will have to spend a minimum of 14 years behind bars before being considered for release by the parole board. Leaving the dock, she reportedly gave a single-finger salute to journalists, using well-known Daesh symbolism.
The 36-year-old, who was reportedly under surveillance by police and MI5, was caught by two undercover officers posing as fellow extremists. She shared her plan with them online.
According to the Guardian, Shaikh told officers about her plan, sharing images of the inside of the cathedral's dome. "I would like to do this place for sure," she wrote. "I would like to bomb and shoot 'til death… I really would love to destroy that place and the kafir there."
Shaikh, who was known as Michelle Ramsden before converting to Islam in 2007, later met the two undercover officers. One of them collected a backpack and holdall, which Shaikh believed would be turned into explosive devices, while the second pretended to measure the Daesh supporter for a suicide vest.
She was arrested in October last year when she cancelled a planned meeting with the officers. The Guardian report said that she attempted to underplay her involvement in the plot during police interviews, citing mental health and drug addiction problems. In court, defence counsel Ben Newton argued in mitigation that Shaikh got "cold feet" about carrying out the attack.
"This particular terrorist act would never have actually happened," he told the court. "Three people were involved in this plot, and the other two were undercover police officers. There was no bomb, and there never would be. She didn't want to blow up a church of people, she just wanted friends."
The prosecution led by Alison Morgan QC described Shaikh as a "violent extremist". The QC alleged that her intention to carry out an attack had remained strong throughout.
Shaikh is thought to have been known to counter-terrorism investigators as early as 2016. She was apparently referred to the Prevent deradicalisation programme three times between 2016 and 2018.