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Life sentences for prisoners who tried to murder guard in terror attack

PA News

Two serving prisoners have been handed life sentences for trying to murder a prison officer in an Islamist terrorist attack behind bars.

Brusthom Ziamani, 25, is five years into a 19-year sentence for a 2014 terror plot to behead a soldier inspired by the murder of Fusilier Lee Rigby.

He and fellow Muslim convert Baz Hockton, 26, who was radicalised in jail, attacked prison officer Neil Trundle at maximum security HMP Whitemoor in Cambridgeshire on January 9.

Brusthom Ziamani has been jailed for life (Metropolitan Police)
Brusthom Ziamani has been jailed for life (Metropolitan Police)

The victim was left covered in blood after he was stabbed and hit by the pair armed with makeshift bladed weapons and wearing fake suicide belts as they shouted: “Allahu Akbar.”

Nurse Jayle Cowles and prison officer Georgina Ibbotson were also hurt as they tried to intervene.

Ziamani admitted assaulting the two women and he and Hockton were both handed life sentences on Thursday after they were found guilty of attempted murder by an Old Bailey jury.

The terror attack is believed to be the first of its kind inside a UK jail, although a homemade IRA bomb was exploded inside Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast in 1991.

Mrs Justice May said Ziamani must serve a minimum 21 years, while Hockton will serve at least 23 years before he is eligible for parole.

She said: “It is quite plain to me that the defendants must have been planning this terrorist operation for some time, preparing fake suicide belts and multiple weapons for the purpose.

“It is no accident the January 9 attack came just weeks after the London Bridge attack in November 2019, when Usman Khan, himself recently a prisoner at HMP Whitemoor, attacked members of the public shouting, ‘Allahu Akbar’, wearing a fake suicide belt, causing him to be shot at the scene.

Former Whitemoor inmate Usman Khan killed Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, in a terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall.

The judge added: “These defendants, inside prison, didn’t have ready access to weapons or explosives but did their utmost to plan and execute a terrorist attack with what they could get their hands upon in prison.”

He said the pair had been “inspired by extremist beliefs” and that their “twisted view of Islam” must change before they are ever released.

Ziamani, with a shaved head and beard, showed no emotion but clasped his hands together as he left the dock flanked by five dock officers, while Hockton smiled slightly after he was sentenced separately later.

Hockton, who has a long history of violence and possessing bladed articles, is three years into a 12-year jail term for stabbing and punching a man in October 2016 and slashing another the following month.

Baz Hockton has also been handed a life sentence (Metropolitan Police)
Baz Hockton has also been handed a life sentence (Metropolitan Police)

He was also sentenced on Thursday to a concurrent 10-year term for wounding a prisoner with intent to cause grievous bodily harm at Swaleside prison, on the Isle of Sheppey in Kent, in April last year.

Ziamani, originally from Camberwell, south London, was jailed in 2015 after he was caught with a hammer and knife on his way to behead a soldier.

The court had heard how the pair lured “kind and helpful” Mr Trundle to a store cupboard on the pretext of asking for a spoon.

They then set upon the officer, targeting his vulnerable head, upper chest and neck areas while shouting “Allahu Akbar”.

Ziamani punched Ms Cowles and Ms Ibbotson before opening his jacket to expose a fake suicide belt as he said: “I’ve got a bomb.”

Hockton was captured on CCTV footage charging at another officer before both inmates were restrained.

An examination of the fake suicide belts revealed one had been constructed with a battery and pressurised can and the other was made from boxer short elastic, electrical cable and plastic bottles.

The court heard the attack on Mr Trundle lasted 24 seconds and the judge said: “The violence against him was short-lived but it was strikingly and shockingly ferocious while it continued.”

Mr Trundle, who has worked at Whitemoor for more than 17 years, suffered cuts to his scalp, arm and shoulder.

He said: “Before I knew it I was on the floor on my back.

“I did not see any weapons. I could feel blows coming down on me.

“I did not realise how bad the damage was to myself until I went to the hospital and looked in the mirror.”

Speaking after the verdicts, he added: “I thank those colleagues of mine who risked their lives coming to my aid on that terrible day.

“If it was not for their bravery and instant response, I am convinced I would not be here today.”

Giving evidence, Ziamani denied the attack was terror-related. He said he wanted to inflict some damage to get sent to a different prison because Whitemoor had become hostile to Muslims after the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack.

Hockton, originally from Dagenham, did not give evidence. He admitted wounding with intent but denied the more serious charge of attempted murder.

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