Widow ‘could not register’ that husband was ringleader of London Bridge attack

The widow of the London Bridge terror attack ringleader broke down in court as she said she is still “not able to look at” photos of the eight victims.

Zahrah Rehman, who was married to Khuram Butt, 27, denied she “closed her eyes” to his extremist views despite not reporting concerns to authorities.

Giving evidence at the inquest into the attacks, she told the Old Bailey her family took away the couple’s passports after Butt bought flights to Turkey as a suspected route to Syria to join the Islamic State militant group.

She said the last time she saw her husband, on June 3 2017 – hours before he launched the attack with Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22 – he gave her a “peck” on the cheek at their family home.

Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba
Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba

Hours later the trio had murdered Xavier Thomas, 45, Christine Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, in an attack which lasted less than 10 minutes.

They used a van to launch the attack before continuing their assault on foot with 12in ceramic knives.

Armed police stormed Butt’s home at about 8am the following day and arrested Ms Rehman, she said.

Sobbing, she told the inquest: “I could not register it that I was living with him and he was in the same house as me and my kids. And how could he do that? I could not register it.

“It took me a long time to register it. Even now, it’s been like two years, and I have not been able to look at the victim’s pictures.”

Christine Archibald, James McMullan, Alexandre Pigeard, Sebastien Belanger, Kirsty Boden, Sara Zelenak, Xavier Thomas and Ignacio Echeverria
Christine Archibald, James McMullan, Alexandre Pigeard, Sebastien Belanger, Kirsty Boden, Sara Zelenak, Xavier Thomas and Ignacio Echeverria

Counsel to the coroner Jonathan Hough QC asked her: “What would you say if it was suggested that you closed your eyes to signs he might do something terrible?”

She said Butt “never showed any signs” of carrying out an atrocity.

Earlier in her evidence on Thursday, Ms Rehman said her family seized their passports, along with her son’s, after Butt bought tickets for a “holiday” together in Turkey.

She said she believed he was “so interested in what was going on in Syria that he was just using Turkey as an excuse”.

The passports were confiscated after she told her “whole family”, she said.

“He didn’t admit that he wanted to go to Syria but everybody was really doubtful of his intentions,” Ms Rehman said.

“It led to people in my family taking my passport, his passport and my son’s passport away just to protect us.”

The tickets were bought around the beginning of 2016, when Butt started associating with hate preacher Anjem Choudary, the inquest heard.

Anjem Choudary
Anjem Choudary

Mr Hough said: “Khuram bought a ticket to Turkey, or tickets to Turkey, and you had a real concern that his plan was to go to Syria to fight.”

She replied: “Yes, because the people he was hanging around with at that time had those views.”

Mr Hough asked if she put “two and two together” and thought to “tell the authorities” about it.

She said: “Everybody thought they had got through to him and he made promises to everyone.”

The couple, both with Pakistani heritage, had wed in an arranged marriage on Christmas Day in 2013.

Videos were shown to the court of their honeymoon in Pakistan, including one of the pair riding a camel as Butt made Arabic statements linked to IS.

He said “Dawlat al-Islamiyah”, which Mr Hough said is “used in connection with IS”.

In a second video recorded on a plane, Butt and Ms Rehman spoke about airports including a “London airport” and Ataturk Airport in Istanbul being renamed after Islamic extremists.

Butt talked about renaming one after Omar Baku, founder of the banned group Al-Muhajiroun.

His wife suggested naming another Abu Luqman, an alias used by Anjem Choudary.

Mr Hough said: “He was not suggesting that the airports should have names of figures like Muhammad or other Muslim holy men, he was suggesting that they all change their names to extremists. Did that not trouble you?”

She said: “Not at that time, I just brushed it off as a stupid joke.”

Ms Rehman said she suggested Choudary’s alias “to carry on the joke”.

She also said that before she married Butt her impression of him was a “gangster”.

“I heard from my auntie he was really charismatic, really confident, really funny,” Ms Rehman told the court. “I always had that idea of him, that he was a street boy, gangster, that kind of boy.”