This is the cramped, shabby Liverpool home of suicide bomber Enzo Almeni, from where he plotted to carry out his failed Poppy Day attack and made pizzas in his spare time.
Almeni, 32, who was born Emad Jamil Al-Swealmeen, is believed to have been living in the terraced property in the Kensington area of the city, which he shared with three other asylum seekers, for more than a year.
It had been converted from three bedrooms to four and was managed by Serco, which provides housing for asylum seekers and is valued at around £70,000. Asylum seekers have been housed there for the past ten years.
Today it emerged that Almeni was allowed to stay in the UK for seven years despite multiple failed claims for asylum and being arrested for ‘waving’ a ‘large knife’ in public before finding Jesus and appealing again in 2017.
He appealed every time the Home Office turned down his application for permanent residency because the authorities believed he was lying about being Syrian and claims he only converted to Christianity from Islam to improve his case.
One former resident in Almeni’s block told MailOnline Almeni often complained to Serco officials about conditions inside the home and pleaded with them to move him, which they eventually did in early 2020.
TJ Jayaweera, 29 an asylum seeker from Sri Lanka revealed that the bedroom walls were made of thin plywood and it was difficult to sleep at night because of continual noise.
Mr Jayaweera, who lived in the property for almost three years moaned: ‘It was filthy and very noise and horrible to live in. There were a lot of asylum seekers like me coming and going but I was there for the longest period of time.
‘The place was filthy and not very well maintained. It was a struggle to live there but I didn’t have any other choice. It’s been used to house asylum seekers for almost ten years.’
He added that he never met the landlord of the property but was in regular contact with his Serco housing manager.
Mr Jayaweera said: ‘I would send emails to the manager complaining about the living conditions in the home. There are a lot of properties housing asylum seekers in that part of Liverpool and the conditions are very poor.’
These are the first pictures inside the cramped, shabby Liverpool home of bomber Enzo Almeni, from where he plotted to carry out his failed bombing of the city’s Women’s Hospital shortly before 11am on Remembrance Sunday
An ex-resident, who lived at the four bedroom property worth around £70,000, gave MailOnline exclusive photos from inside. They show suitcases on the floor in the lounge and said the bedroom walls were made of thin plywood, making sleep difficult
Almeni, 32, who was born Emad Jamil Al-Swealmeen, is seen with a pizza that he had made during his time a catering college
Here’s what we know about the terror attack, and the suicide bomber, so far:
The sports car-loving suicide bomber who changed his name to honour Enzo Ferrari: How asylum seeker, 32, who blew himself up at hospital was go-karting fan with chequered flag tattooed on his arm
In May 2017 Al Swealmeen changed his name by deed poll to make it easier to pronounce. In tribute to Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, the car-mad asylum seeker became Enzo Almeni
Smiling for the camera, Emad Al Swealmeen looks like just another happy young man posing for social media snaps. But the go-karting fanatic and budding pizza chef would go on to become a suicide bomber.
Born in Iraq and brought up in Syria, Al Swealmeen, 32, came to Britain seven years ago. He had a history of mental health problems, and was once sectioned for brandishing a knife near Liverpool’s city centre, friends said.
He relinquished his Muslim faith and converted to Christianity soon after arriving in the UK, having attended Bible classes and services at Liverpool’s imposing Anglican Cathedral. The site was originally thought to have been the target of his failed Remembrance Day plot. In May 2017 Al Swealmeen changed his by deed poll to make it easier to pronounce. In tribute to Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, the car-mad asylum seeker became Enzo Almeni. Pictures online show trips to a go-kart track – and a chequered flag tattooed on his arm.
The son of an Iraqi mother and Syrian father, he arrived in the UK in early 2014. His first application to the Home Office for asylum was turned down that November. He was arrested soon afterwards, lay pastor and friend Malcolm Hitchcott said, for possession of a ‘large knife’.
Al Swealmeen had regularly attended ‘instruction’ workshops and Bible study courses led by Mr Hitchcott at the cathedral. It was there that he was confirmed into Christianity in a ceremony attended by Mr Hitchcott and his wife, Elizabeth, on March 27, 2017. Days later the devout couple, both 77, offered to put up the then-destitute Al Swealmeen in their home rent-free as he had nowhere else to live.
Last night a shocked Mr Hitchcott said he felt ‘numbed’ that the ‘lovely man’ who stayed with him in the suburb of Aigburth was behind Sunday’s explosion. ‘My wife and I will now have to try to come to terms with this, the fact we had this man living with us for eight months,’ the former soldier said. The men would go for walks, where the typically quiet Al Swealmeen would ‘talk endlessly and passionately about Jesus’. Asked why he thought Al Swealmeen converted to Christianity, Mr Hitchcott said: ‘A lot of asylum seekers do not see much in Islam [for them].’
He said he and his wife got to know Al Swealmeen ‘very well… or we thought we did’. Their guest left on good terms after eight months. The Hitchcotts, who were going on holiday, worried about him being alone in their home. ‘We told him he could stay and our daughter would pop in, but he decided to leave,’ Mrs Hitchcott said.
The couple cannot recall Al Swealmeen ever speaking of anything ‘political’, and remember only one ‘flashpoint’. Mr Hitchcott said: ‘He was involved in an incident prior to our meeting where he was found by police with a pretty big knife on the main Churchill Way flyover. ‘I don’t know if he threatened anyone but as a result of that he was sectioned for several months.
‘He obviously had some mental instability because one day he accused me of opening his mail. He came in and said, ‘Is there something you want to know about me’, and accused me. I told him we wouldn’t dream of it. He did come and apologise afterwards.
‘He had received a small package, he told me it was something for a friend of his… makes me wonder about it now. He obviously didn’t want me poking my nose in and got very sensitive. Otherwise we were on the best of terms with him. ‘If we wanted a job doing he would do it, no problem.’
Mrs Hitchcott said Al Swealmeen would go to the food bank with them and do chores around the house. ‘He was fairly private but very industrious,’ she added. ‘He loved to draw, he was very interested in art and could cook a mean pizza.’ Photos on Mr Hitchcott’s web profiles show Al Swealmeen in chef’s whites bought for him by his hosts. While Mr Hitchcott hadn’t seen Al Swealmeen for several years, his wife bumped into him two years ago in the town centre. ‘It must have been around spring 2019 because it was before Covid,’ she said. ‘He told me he was doing a cake decorating course, he was really enthusiastic about it. He said he would keep in touch but I didn’t hear any more.’
- Enzo Almeni, 32, a Muslim who converted to Christianity four years ago, was repeatedly turned down for permanent residency because the authorities weren’t convinced by his claims he came from Syria;
- He arrived in the UK before 2014 and was arrested and sectioned after being caught carrying a ‘large knife’ around Liverpool;
- After living with a family on Merseyside and converting from Islam to Christianity, he moved into a hostel for asylum seekers where he lived for the past three years. Recently he rented a flat, which he turned into a bomb factory;
- A Christian couple have told how they welcomed Almeni into their home after inviting him for Easter lunch;
- He booked a taxi to take him to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital at around 10.45am. His bomb, made from unstable TATP often used by ISIS, explodes as he pulls up at 10.57am on Sunday;
- Police and MI5 are trying to find his motive – but sources believe it was his dispute after claiming asylum that may have pushed him to it. Insiders believe he wanted to blow up the maternity unit, killing women and children;
- Faith leaders in Liverpool have said the city is ‘famed for being welcoming and tolerant’ and that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’ in call for calm;
- Footage of the blast shows the driver, David Perry, jump out after the blast having apparently locked the doors to prevent him getting into the hospital. His wife says it is a miracle he survived;
- Three men aged 21, 26 and 27, are arrested with two properties around a mile from the scene being searched by police: Sutcliffe Street in Kensington; Yesterday a fourth suspect, 20, was arrested in Kensington, also under the Terrorism Act; All four men were later released without charge;
Born in Iraq and brought up in Syria, Almeni came to Britain seven years ago. He had a history of mental health problems, and was once sectioned for brandishing a knife near Liverpool’s city centre, friends said.
He relinquished his Muslim faith and converted to Christianity soon after arriving in the UK, having attended Bible classes and services at Liverpool’s imposing Anglican Cathedral.
The site was originally thought to have been the target of his failed Remembrance Day plot.
In May 2017 Almeni changed his by deed poll to make it easier to pronounce.
In tribute to Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari, the car-mad asylum seeker became Enzo Almeni. Pictures online show trips to a go-kart track – and a chequered flag tattooed on his arm.
The son of an Iraqi mother and Syrian father, he arrived in the UK in early 2014. His first application to the Home Office for asylum was turned down that November.
He was arrested soon afterwards, lay pastor and friend Malcolm Hitchcott said, for possession of a ‘large knife’.
Almeni had regularly attended ‘instruction’ workshops and Bible study courses led by Mr Hitchcott at the cathedral.
It was there that he was confirmed into Christianity in a ceremony attended by Mr Hitchcott and his wife, Elizabeth, on March 27, 2017. Days later the devout couple, both 77, offered to put up the then-destitute Almeni in their home rent-free as he had nowhere else to live.
Last night a shocked Mr Hitchcott said he felt ‘numbed’ that the ‘lovely man’ who stayed with him in the suburb of Aigburth was behind Sunday’s explosion.
‘My wife and I will now have to try to come to terms with this, the fact we had this man living with us for eight months,’ the former soldier said.
The men would go for walks, where the typically quiet Almeni would ‘talk endlessly and passionately about Jesus’.
Asked why he thought Almeni converted to Christianity, Mr Hitchcott said: ‘A lot of asylum seekers do not see much in Islam [for them].’
He said he and his wife got to know Almeni ‘very well… or we thought we did’.
Their guest left on good terms after eight months.
The Hitchcotts, who were going on holiday, worried about him being alone in their home. ‘We told him he could stay and our daughter would pop in, but he decided to leave,’ Mrs Hitchcott said.
The couple cannot recall Almeni ever speaking of anything ‘political’, and remember only one ‘flashpoint’.
Mr Hitchcott said: ‘He was involved in an incident prior to our meeting where he was found by police with a pretty big knife on the main Churchill Way flyover.
‘I don’t know if he threatened anyone but as a result of that he was sectioned for several months.
‘He obviously had some mental instability because one day he accused me of opening his mail.
‘He came in and said, ‘Is there something you want to know about me’, and accused me. I told him we wouldn’t dream of it. He did come and apologise afterwards.
‘He had received a small package, he told me it was something for a friend of his… makes me wonder about it now.
‘He obviously didn’t want me poking my nose in and got very sensitive.
‘Otherwise we were on the best of terms with him. If we wanted a job doing he would do it, no problem.’
Almeni is believed to have been living in the terraced property in the Kensington area of the city for more than a year
The suicide bomber shared the property run by Serco in the Kensington area of Liverpool with three other asylum seekers
One former resident told MailOnline that he often complained to Serco officials about the filthy conditions inside the home
Almeni (pictured) was born in Iraq and raised in Syria before travelling to the UK seven years ago and settled in Liverpool
These are the events that led to the explosion outside the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and the arrests and raids that followed
Mrs Hitchcott said Almeni would go to the food bank with them and do chores around the house. ‘He was fairly private but very industrious,’ she added. ‘He loved to draw, he was very interested in art and could cook a mean pizza.’
Photos on Mr Hitchcott’s web profiles show Almeni in chef’s whites bought for him by his hosts. While Mr Hitchcott hadn’t seen Almeni for several years, his wife bumped into him two years ago in the town centre.
‘It must have been around spring 2019 because it was before Covid,’ she said. ‘He told me he was doing a cake decorating course, he was really enthusiastic about it. He said he would keep in touch but I didn’t hear any more.’
Another Christian couple have told how they welcomed Almeni into their home after inviting him for Easter lunch.
The Revered Mike Hindley and wife Kate asked Al Swealmeen to join them and their three children for roast lamb on Easter Sunday in 2018.
He had attended the Emmanuel Church in Fazakerley in the north of Liverpool earlier that day where Rev. Hindley had given an Easter sermon.
Mrs Hindley, 47, said: ‘He was so lovely, very kind and quiet and just so easy to be around.
‘It was a very pleasant afternoon, a typical lively family affair with the normal family chatter but he got on well with everyone and was wonderful company.
‘I remember I was slightly nervous as he was from Syria and I was cooking roast lamb and I was sure he’d have been able to cook it better than me but he seemed to enjoy it.
‘He was also very honest and admitted that he’d been in hospital for issues with his mental health.’
Almeni was taken in by church-going Christian couple Malcolm Hitchcott and his wife Elizabeth (pictured together). They told of their shock last night that the quiet, well-mannered boy who lived with them could have been involved in the bombing
Terrorist Al Swealmeen pictured on the right being converted to Christianity in Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral in 2017. Sources claim he may have found Jesus just to improve his immigration case
Hero taxi driver David Perry (with his wife Rachel), was driving Almeni to Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday morning when he apparently locked a suicide bomber in his car before a blast ripped through the vehicle outside the hospital
Why was Poppy Day bomber still in UK after SEVEN years of failed asylum requests? Home Office under fire as it’s claimed terrorist ‘converted to Christianity to get visa’ as Liverpool Cathedral curate warns ‘many abuse system’ by pretending to find Jesus
By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter for MailOnline
How 40,000 failed asylum seekers are STILL waiting to be deported from the UK and the number being forced to leave Britain has dropped to just 8,000-a-year from almost 50,000 in 2013
This chart shows the number of enforced and voluntary deportations of asylum seekers over the past decade. The numbers have dropped across the board to under 8,000 in total in 2020 – down from close to 50,000 in 2013
The number of failed asylum seekers being deported from the UK fell to a record low of under 8,000 last year – down almost 40,000-a-year in eight years, MailOnline can reveal today.
Official Home Office figures show that tens of thousands of failed asylum seekers are still waiting to be sent back to the country of their birth – and cases are taking longer to complete because of the number of appeals.
In 2013 around 47,000 failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals were deported. This dropped to a low of 8,000 last year, with covid, in part, being blamed for the record low last year.
UK Border figures from June show that there are currently 125,000 asylum cases outstanding in Britain.
Of these 5,900 people, including Almeni until his death, were awaiting the outcome of an appeal. Some have been waiting for years.
Approximately 39,500 people are still waiting to be deported.
There have between 19,000 and 35,000 new asylum applications a year for the past 17 years. In that period the number of applications rejected has dropped from 74% in 2004 to 46% in 2019. But this jumped back to 70% in 2020.
Around three-quarters of applicants refused asylum at initial decision lodged an appeal and almost one third of those appeals were allowed.
There are calls for the Home Office to review their policies and practices in the wake of the attack after it emerged suicide bomber Enzo Almeni, 32, had been in the UK for seven years without gaining permanent residency.
The Liverpool suicide bomber was allowed to stay in the UK for seven years despite multiple failed claims for asylum and being arrested for ‘waving’ a ‘large knife’ in public before finding Jesus and appealing again in 2017, it emerged today.
Enzo Almeni, 32, appealed every time the Home Office turned down his application for permanent residency because the authorities believed he was lying about being Syrian and claims he only converted to Christianity from Islam to improve his case.
The Home Office is now under pressure to properly investigate if increasing numbers of asylum seekers are being baptised and confirmed by the Church of England to aid their bid to stay in the UK.
The car-mad terrorist changed his name Emad Jamil Al Swealmeen by deed poll to Enzo Almeni, in tribute to Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari. He claimed it was to make it more Western and easier for people to pronounce, but there were suspicions it was because his birth name was Jordanian and not Syrian.
Others have claimed they believed he was only interested in converting to Christianity because he believed it would assist his asylum claim, having made a new application in 2017 after he was baptised and confirmed.
Malcolm Hitchcott, who with his wife Elizabeth took him in for almost a year, said: ‘The UK asylum people were never convinced he was Syrian and he was refused asylum in 2014. He had his case rejected because he has been sectioned due to some mental health incident where he was waving a knife at people from an overpass’.
Mr Hitchcott, a former lay minister at Liverpool Cathedral, previously expressed concern about asylum seekers pretending to convert to bolster their visa applications. But he believes Almeni was genuine and would ‘talk endlessly and passionately about Jesus’.
In documents relating to another asylum case he said: ‘I am aware that there are some asylum seekers who attend church with the sole purpose of advancing their asylum claims’.
On Sunday Almeni carried a homemade ‘Mother of Satan’ ball bearing bomb used by ISIS extremists to ’cause maximum carnage’ at a maternity hospital and may have been driven to take revenge after his asylum bids kept being turned down, it was claimed today.
A security source told The Sun: ‘One of the issues being looked at is whether this unresolved grievance pushed him over the edge and prompted him to carry out the attack.’
Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis was today critical of the lack of any information and statements from the Home Office about Almeni’s immigration case in the wake of the hospital blast.
Later in the Commons, Conservative MP Scott Benton called for more ‘effective border controls’ to help maintain public confidence in security after Sunday’s bombing.
The Blackpool South MP told the Commons: ‘Whilst I appreciate that this is a live investigation and we clearly cannot speculate upon all of the details, the media reports that the suspect was an asylum seeker has understandably raised considerable concern among my constituents. Does (Kit Malthouse) agree that having effective border controls is vital in terms of maintaining public confidence on public security?’
Home Office minister Mr Malthouse replied: ‘He is right that all nations need to have compassionate, fair and swift border controls that deliver on their duty to those fleeing persecution around the world, but at the same time making sure there is an orderly way to enter the country.’
Latest Government figures from June show that there are currently 125,000 outstanding asylum cases being considered by the British authorities. Of these 5,900 people, including Almeni until his death, were awaiting the outcome of an appeal, and approximately 39,500 people are waiting to be deported.
In 2013 the number of failed asylum seekers and foreign criminals being deported peaked at 47,000. This dropped to a low of 8,000 last year.
The Home Office is yet to comment on Almeni’s case. MailOnline has asked if their policies will change in wake of the Liverpool attack.
Police said Almeni had been living at a hostel for asylum seekers – run by private contracting giant Serco – in Sutcliffe Street, Liverpool, ‘for some time’ before renting a ‘bomb factory’ two miles away in Rutland Avenue, paid for by his job as a pizza chef. He is also said to have worked in a cake shop.
Asylum seekers in the UK are not normally allowed to work but he was allowed to circumvent the ban because of his current appeal, which was likely to be on the basis of his mental health problems and his new-found Christian faith. It is not yet known when he arrived in the UK but he first became known to the authorities after being arrested for possession of a ‘large knife’ after the rejection of his asylum claim in 2014, resulting in him being sectioned under the Mental Health Act and hospitalised for several months.
Almeni killed himself after the homemade device exploded as his taxi pulled up at Liverpool Women’s Hospital just before before the 11am minute’s silence on Remembrance Sunday.
His bomb was made using homemade TATP explosives. TATP is unstable and known as a ‘Mother of Satan’ because it is liable to blow up accidentally. It was used by Islamist terrorists in the Paris suicide attacks of 2015, the Manchester Arena bombing in 2017 and the failed Parsons Green Underground station attack. Just like Almeni, Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan had been taken in by a family before turning to terrorism.
Police and MI5 will be trying to work out if he was radicalised, and by who, and how he learned to make ISIS’ bomb of choice.
David Videcette, a former 7/7 counter-terror detective at Scotland Yard, said today: ‘There’s now a dispute about who exactly Emad al Swealmeen really was, and where he actually came from. This is always a problem with asylum applicants who destroy their documents before arrival. I know one thing, he didn’t learn how to make bombs while working in cake shops’.
Rutland Avenue, where Almeni lived and built his bomb, remains sealed off today. It is also the place where he was picked up in the taxi that later exploded outside the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool
Forensic officers at Liverpool Women’s Hospital today where they continue to gather evidence after Sunday’s explosion
This is the moment the taxi carrying the suicide bomber exploded outside a Liverpool hospital in what police and MI5 are now probing as a Poppy Day terror attack. Experts fear he was copying an ISIS attack on a maternity hospital in Kabul
This is a graph showing the number of failed asylum seekers being deported from the UK each year since 2005. The figure rose from 28,000 in 2005 to a peak of almost 47,000 in 2013 but has dropped every year since then to a record low of 7,973 in 2020
This chart shows the number of applications for asylum in the UK since 2004. The number of applications has been relatively steady at around 25,000 to 35,000 a year. But the amount of refusals has dropped largely year on year since 2004, but jumped up to 70% again in 2020
Police and MI5 are trying to work out if Liverpool’s main maternity hospital, which was packed with mothers and new babies, was his intended target. ISIS attacked the maternity ward of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in Kabul, killing 24 including 16 mothers and two children in 2020.
A senior former intelligence source told the Mirror: ‘The bomber intended to enter the hospital and trigger his device, but for some reason it went off early and failed properly to initiate. Had he successfully set off the bomb inside it would have been extremely bloody and horrific. We believe this was a partial explosion, clearly from a device at high-chest level, aimed at causing many casualties.’
POPPY DAY HOSPITAL EXPLOSION: HOW EVENTS UNFOLDED ON REMEMBRANCE SUNDAY
A picture shows the burnt out vehicle outside the Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Sunday afternoon
Sunday, November 14
10.57am: The taxi pulls up at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital and explodes seconds later.
10.59am: The vehicle is fully engulfed just before the national silence for Remembrance Sunday.
The passenger was killed and the driver was left with serious injuries. The latter is said to have spotted the explosives, ‘jumped’ from the car and locked the other man inside.
At the time, a remembrance service involving scores of military personnel, veterans and civic dignitaries, was taking place at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral less than a mile away. There are reports the taxi parked at the hospital because it could not get any closer to the Cathedral.
11.04am: Police and emergency services arrive at the scene, and it is initially thought the car might have caught alight because of a fuel leak.
1pm: Officers, who are believed to have spoken to hero taxi driver David Perry, announce the incident is being treated as an act of terrorism.
4.54pm: Police seal off Rutland Avenue (right). Around a mile from the blast. Locals said armed police ordered residents to leave and head to a nearby leisure centre, saying the area ‘wasn’t safe’ and were ‘pointing guns at a house’. Counter-terror negotiators were also called to the scene.
6.59pm: The men – aged 29, 26, and 21 – were detained in the Kensington area of the city and arrested under the Terrorism Act.
Monday, November 15
3.30am: The operation at the Rutland Avenue address appears to wind down.
10am: Footage of the explosion emerges on CCTV from the scene.
Midday: Police confirm it is being treated as a terror attack. And a man, 20, becomes the fourth suspect arrested
3pm: After raising the UK terror threat level to ‘severe’, speaking at a press conference at Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the blast was a ‘stark reminder’ to the public to remain vigilant, adding: ‘What yesterday showed above all is that the British people will never be cowed by terrorism, we will never give in to those who seek to divide us with senseless acts of violence.
‘And our freedoms and our way of life will always prevail.’
7pm: MailOnline names the suicide bomber as asylum seeker Enzo Almeni, 32, a Muslim who converted to Christianity four years ago. He changed his name from Emad Jamil Al Swealmeen.
Tuesday November 16
7am: Four suspects who are said to have known Almeni a and were arrested in armed raids were released without charge
Police are also looking at whether Almeni may planned to have blown himself up on Remembrance Sunday as 1,200 military personnel, veterans and families of the fallen gathered to observe the minute’s silence at Liverpool Cathedral, where he was baptised and confirmed in March 2017.
The asylum seeker’s heritage was disputed throughout by the Home Office. He arrived in Britain more than seven years ago, claiming to be of Syrian and Iraqi heritage. But security sources believe he actually came from Jordan. The decision not to deport him raises serious questions for the Home Office, as he was allowed to stay in the country for so long.
He had been in a long-term dispute with the Home Office over his application for UK residential status, and until recently had been living at a hostel for asylum seekers – run by private contracting giant Serco – in Sutcliffe Street, Liverpool, ‘for some time’ before renting a flat two miles away in Rutland Avenue, which he turned into a bomb factory.
Asked about reports suspected terrorist Emad Al Swealmeen had an asylum claim rejected, security minister Damian Hinds said: ‘The deceased individual has been named and we know that the other four people that had been arrested the police have been satisfied with their account and they’ve been released, they’re not under investigation, nobody else being sought at the moment.
‘It’s not right for me to comment in detail or speculate about the background to this individual.
‘More will of course become known in time but right now we’re in a live investigation, it’s important that the police investigation has the time and the space it needs to operate.’
His driver David Perry, 45, survived in a ‘miracle’ after Almeni’s 1lb bomb failed to properly detonate, with the hero cabbie said to have panicked when his passenger started ‘vibrating’ and ‘flashing’ in the seconds before they reached their destination.
The Christian couple who opened their home to the Liverpool suicide bomber for eight months after he converted from Islam told of their shock last night after learning he launched a suicide bomb attack and declared: ‘We just loved him. He was a lovely guy’.
Almeni spent most of his time in the UK in Liverpool, and spent eight months living with devout Christians Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott at their home in Aigburth. They admit that he had mental health problems and had lost touch with him recently.
Mr Hitchcott, a former British Army soldier, said he felt ‘numbed’ to learn that the ‘lovely man’ who lived at his home for eight months was behind the plot. ‘It’s almost too impossible to believe,’ he told the Daily Mail. ‘There was nothing to suggest he could go on to become radicalised.’
The couple described their ‘shock’ that Almeni – a ‘very quiet fellow’ – would try to commit an act of terror, telling ITV News they lived ‘cheek by jowl’ when he stayed with them at their home and that there was ‘never any suggestion of anything amiss’.
A tearful Mrs Hitchcott told the broadcaster: ‘What a waste of a life. But the one thing I suppose to be thankful for is that he did not kill anyone else.’
Mr Hitchcott said Almeni rejected Islam and converted to Christianity and was baptised and confirmed in Liverpool Cathedral in March 2017.
‘He first came to the cathedral in August 2015 and wanted to convert to Christianity,’ Mr Hitchcott told MailOnline. ‘He took an Alpha course, which explains the Christian faith, and completed it in November of that year. That enabled him to come to an informed decision and he changed from Islam to Christianity and was confirmed as a Christian by at least March 2017, just before he came to live with us. He was destitute at that time and we took him in.’
It is thought Almeni had wanted to attack the cathedral on Remembrance Sunday as 1,200 military personnel, veterans and families of the fallen gathered to observe the minute’s silence – but that traffic and road closures stopped him from getting there. It is believed he died after being locked in a cab by Mr Perry as it exploded into a fireball outside the hospital.
Detectives and MI5 spies are investigating whether the bombing was an Islamist-inspired attack. Security sources said Almeni’s mental health problems were ‘a key line of inquiry’ in understanding his motivation.
Police said Almeni was picked up in the Rutland Avenue area of the city. As the car reached the hospital’s passenger drop-off point, it exploded.
Four men arrested under terrorism laws in the Kensington area of Liverpool – three aged 21, 26 and 29, who were held on Sunday, and a man aged 20 who was detained on Monday – have now been released from police custody following interview, Counter Terrorism Police North West said on Monday night. MI5 is assisting police with the investigation.
Meanwhile, forensic officers continued the delicate task of searching the ‘bomb factory’ from where Almeni booked the taxi. Eight nearby homes have been evacuated, and officers on Monday carried out a controlled explosion on an item taken from the property in nearby Sefton Park in what they described as ‘a precaution’.
Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Meeks of Counter Terrorism Police North West said: ‘Our enquiries are very much ongoing but at this stage we strongly believe that the deceased is 32-year-old Emad Al Swealmeen.
‘Al Swealmeen is connected to both the Rutland Avenue and Sutcliffe Street addresses where searches are still ongoing. We believe he lived at the Sutcliffe Street address for some time and had recently rented the Rutland Avenue address. Our focus is the Rutland Avenue address where we have continued to recover significant items.
‘We continue to appeal for any information about this incident and now that we have released his name any information that the public may have about Al Swealmeen no matter how small may be of great assistance to us.’
Ex-colonel pastor who took in terrorist admits asylum seekers have been pretending to find Jesus to bolster their visa applications
The Christian man who took in the Liverpool bomber when he was destitute had previously expressed concern about asylum seekers pretending to convert to bolster their visa applications.
Malcolm Hitchcott (right) supported two Iranian refugees in their bids to get permission to stay in the UK by giving evidence that he believed they had genuinely adopted the Christian faith.
In documents relating to an appeal in Manchester in 2015, when he was a lay minister at Liverpool Cathedral, a summary of his evidence said: ‘He was forthright in explaining how he understands that some Iranians might pretend to have found Jesus in order to support a false claim for asylum.
‘This is something that he, and other clergy and staff at the Cathedral, are very aware of.
‘He has personally refused to come to court for other Iranians who attend the cathedral and has also refused to baptise someone.
‘The fact that some people might seek to abuse the trust of the Church has made him scrutinise the behaviour of the Iranian worshippers.
‘He watches how they behave outside of formal services and meetings, and if this is found to be incongruous with their claim to be Christians, Lt Col Hitchcott would not support their asylum claims.
‘He gave the example of one man whose demeanour at meetings was markedly different from that outside; whilst quiet and respectful in company he had been overheard in the men’s bathroom using overtly sexual language and swearing.’
Mr Hitchcott mentioned the same issue during another appeal two years later.
Documents relating to the case show that he said: ‘I am aware that there are some asylum seekers who attend church with the sole purpose of advancing their asylum claims.
‘However, their motives are usually easily exposed when their lifestyle and their professed faith are at odds with one another.’
Investigators have not yet confirmed publicly what the motivation of Enzo Almeni, also known as Emad Al Swealmeen, was for detonating a homemade bomb outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital on Remembrance Sunday.
Bishop Cyril Ashton said he had conducted the confirmation of Al Swealmeen and that the 32-year-old ‘would have been thoroughly prepared with an understanding of the Christian faith’.
A spokesman for Liverpool Cathedral said Al Swealmeen was baptised in 2015 and confirmed in 2017, but lost contact with the cathedral in 2018.
The UK’s terror threat level was raised to ‘severe’ following an emergency COBRA meeting at Downing Street. Police and security services advised the Prime Minister that another attack on British soil is now ‘highly likely’. It came exactly a month after Conservative MP Sir David Amess was fatally stabbed during a constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex.
At a Covid press briefing yesterday, Boris Johnson dramatically urged the country to be ‘vigilant’ and called the blast a ‘stark reminder’ of the risks of terrorism.
Home Secretary Priti Patel cancelled a planned trip to Paris to discuss the Channel migrant crisis so she could be briefed on the Liverpool bombing.
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson said on Monday night: ‘Following interviews with the arrested men, we are satisfied with the accounts they have provided and they have been released from police custody.
‘The investigation continues to move at a fast pace with investigative teams working throughout the night.
‘We have made significant progress since Sunday morning and have a much greater understanding of the component parts of the device, how they were obtained and how the parts are likely to have been assembled. We have also recovered important evidence from the address at Rutland Avenue which is becoming central to the investigation.
‘There is a considerable way to go to understand how this incident was planned, prepared for and how it happened. We are gaining a better understanding by the hour but it is likely to be some time, perhaps many weeks until we are confident on our understanding of what has taken place.’
The Home Office is said to have been suspicious about his claims that he was Syrian.
Mr Hitchcott exclusively told MailOnline: ‘He was Syrian through his father but I gather he spent much of his life in Iraq, where his mother came from.
‘As far as I can recall, we never spoke in any great length about the situation in Iraq and Syria, we may have touched on it once or twice but he gave nothing away about what he felt about it.
‘I don’t think he ever went back to Iraq or Syria. I know that he had a brother who lived in Dubai and often spent time between there and Iraq. Enzo used to send him money.
‘He was good company. We would sometimes go on days out, myself, Enzo and my wife Marion visited Speke Hall on one occasion and took some nice images together.
‘But his behaviour changed ever so slightly towards the end of the period he lived with us. He stated to ask odd questions. I remember he came into the kitchen once and said: ‘Is there anything you want to ask me?’
‘I was a bit taken aback and replied ”no, why do you ask? You’ve been here six months.” He then showed me a letter addressed to him that had been torn at the top of the envelope and he accused me of opening it to see what was inside.
‘But I hadn’t at all. The envelope was torn as as it had been pushed through the letter box. I showed him a letter addressed to me that had been torn in the same way but I don’t think he was completely convinced. Myself and my wife went on holiday in November 2017 and told Enzo he could stay at our house while we were away but he said he wanted to leave and get his own place.
‘He left and we had little contact with him from then on in. Apart from when he invited us to a Christmas carol concert in December 2017 at the Williamson Tunnels.’
He added: ‘My wife saw him before lockdown and he seemed to be in very good spirits. He said that he’d enrolled in a catering course specialising in cake decorating at a college in Liverpool. The fact that he’s blown himself up in a taxi in a terrorist attack has really shocked me. As far as I knew his only interest was go-karting and Formula 1.’
Hero taxi driver David Perry (with his wife Rachel), who apparently locked a suicide bomber in his car before a blast ripped through the vehicle outside a maternity hospital in Liverpool on Sunday
This is the moment armed officers raided a property in Sutcliffe Street Liverpool with one marksman scaling the back wall with a ladder and pointing it at a man leaving the back door.
Smoke billows out of the car. Friends of the driver have said that he became suspicious of the man he had on board
The hero taxi driver runs from the vehicle and appears to point away from the car, warning people to stay away because of what has unfolded inside
Almeni died in the inferno at Liverpool Women’s Hospital seconds before the 11am Remembrance Sunday silence began
Hospital bosses are urged to review security measures in the wake of Liverpool terror attack
Hospitals were urged to review their security measures last night after the Liverpool bomb attack.
Although there is nothing to suggest any linked attacks are planned, bosses at England’s 213 NHS trusts have been told to make sure staff are aware of what to do in the event of a terrorist incident.
In an email to staff at a London hospital, seen by the Daily Mail, workers have been told to ‘remain vigilant’ and familiarise themselves with existing security arrangements.
They have also been invited to attend a free ‘action counters terrorism’ course.
Similar guidance is being sent to staff at hundreds of hospitals in England – but NHS England stressed this is standard procedure when the UK’s terror threat level is raised.
At the centre of the intense police operation yesterday was the ‘bomb factory’ where Al Swealmeen put together his defective bomb.
Officers descended on Rutland Avenue within two hours of Sunday’s explosion. The property on Rutland Avenue, a tree-lined road in a smart area consisting of many large Victorian houses split into flats, was cordoned off by 1pm.
At this stage, neighbours did not see much sign of police activity. One local resident described the man at the centre of the case as a ‘foreigner’ who had only moved in about two or three weeks ago and had lived alone.
Investigators examining Al Swealmeen’s phone records quickly identified ‘associates’ and an address on Sutcliffe Street, almost three miles across the city in the Kensington district, which was a hostel for asylum seekers.
Police blocked off all roads leading to the hostel, and trained searchlights on the property as darkness fell. A witness filmed a police marksman armed with an assault rifle scaling a rear wall with a ladder. Three men were later arrested at the hostel.
At Rutland Avenue, activity intensified over Sunday afternoon and evening. It is not clear when officers realised one of the flats in the semi-detached property was a bomb factory, because nearby neighbours were not evacuated until the evening.
At 8pm, one of them watched as ‘two officers in protective vests marked with ‘Negotiator’ arrived on the scene’. He added: ‘About six or seven police cars, each with two officers, arrived. They said they were armed police and we can’t leave our homes.
‘We have been told to keep away from the windows, and if people were out, they can’t come home.’
By 11.30pm on Sunday, eight families living in the next-door addresses were evacuated. Taxis and at least two minibuses arrived to take the residents to alternative accommodation.
By the early hours of yesterday, armed officers had entered the three-storey villa.
One resident who lives behind the house – which is split into four flats – described seeing police ‘shining red lasers towards the upstairs rear window’. A tenant who rented a flat in the building 15 years ago said the ground- floor studio apartment had access to a ‘small concrete-walled bunker, like something from the Second World War’.
Later yesterday officers yesterday carried out a controlled explosion in nearby Sefton Park on an item taken from the property in what they described as a ‘precaution’.
Witness Frances Evans said police officers formed a human shield around a black van, which was driven in to the middle of the park before she saw a puff of smoke.
‘They made this big ring to make sure nobody came near the park,’ she said. ‘They were probably about 50 metres from the van.’
‘There is more that unites us’:Liverpool’s faith leaders make joint appeal for calm after attack
Faith leaders in Liverpool have said the city is ‘famed for being welcome and tolerant’ and that ‘there is more that unites us than divides us’.
In a joint statement, Canon Crispin Pailing, of St Nicholas Church, Leyla Mashjari, of the Al-Ghazali Multicultural Centre, Priyanka Mohta, of the Hindu Cultural Organisation and Rabbi Avinoam Czitron said: ‘Sunday’s terrorist attack at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital has shocked people of every faith, and those of no faith, across the city.
‘Terrorism is an indiscriminate act against people of all faiths, no faith and of all backgrounds.
‘It seeks to destroy our lives of peaceful co-existence and disrupt the functions of society.
‘Liverpool is a city famed for being welcoming and tolerant. At this difficult time let us remember that there is more that unites us than divides us.’
The Liverpool faith leaders continued: ‘Our belief in humanity may be shaken but it remains intact.
‘We need to remain calm yet vigilant and alert not alarmed at this time.
‘As faith leaders we are united in our desire for peace and justice.
‘Within our different communities we pray for all those affected and for them to make a good recovery.’
Searches have been proceeding with extreme caution due to the ‘challenging environment’, sources said. Police said Al Swealmeen had ‘recently’ rented a property in the building.
Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson of Counter Terrorism North West said they know the identity of the taxi passenger and believe that he made the bomb.
He said: ‘It is not clear what the motivation for this incident is. Our enquiries indicate that an improvised explosive device has been manufactured and our assumption so far is that this was built by the passenger in the taxi.
‘The reason why he then took it to the Women’s Hospital is unknown, as is the reason for its sudden explosion. We are of course aware that there were Remembrance events just a short distance away from the hospital and that the ignition occurred shortly before 11am.
‘We cannot at this time draw any connection with this but it is a line of inquiry we are pursuing. Although, the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident and counter-terrorism policing are continuing with the investigation. Our enquiries will now continue to seek to understand how the device was built, the motivation for the incident and to understand if anyone else was involved in it’.
Investigators have ‘attributed’ the bomber to both the addresses but police are not yet sure where he lived, and last night at 9.45pm anti-terror officers forced their way into the front and back of the Sutcliffe Street house as they tried to establish if he was a lone wolf or part of a cell.
Suspects were seen with their hands up in the rear yard, as officers trained their rifles on them and told them to get on the floor. Matthew Heitman, 26, who lives opposite the raided house, said: ‘Two of the men were marched out at gunpoint and they had them up against the wall. The people living there had not long moved in, maybe weeks or months.’
Another neighbour, Sharon Cullen, said she and her husband, 22-year-old daughter and two-year-old grandson were evacuated from their home. She said: ‘The police pounded on my door and an officer said ‘we need to get you out of the house as soon as possible’. They said ‘whatever is going on at the back of the house, it could blow the block’. It was really frightening.’
Mr Perry has been credited with saving many lives after keeping the suspect inside his cab in the moments before it blew up. His wife has revealed he is ‘doing ok but is extremely sore’, while adding that his escape was an ‘utter miracle’.
Rachel Perry wrote on Facebook: ‘I would just like to thank each and every one of you who has messaged asking how David is. He is doing ok but is extremely sore and trying to process what’s happened.
Detectives say the male passenger who died in the blast had asked to go Liverpool’s Women’s Hospital, around ten minutes drive from his home in Rutland Avenue, which police have sealed off. They also evacuated eight neighbours overnight amid fears it was being used as a bomb factory.
Friends of Mr Perry believe the target may have been the city’s nearby Service of Remembrance at Liverpool’s Anglican Cathedral, where 1,200 military personnel, veterans and families of the fallen had gathered less than a mile from the hospital. Roads around the cathedral had been closed before the 11am Poppy Day event.
Mr Perry escaped to safety a split-second after a small blast blew out the windows and before flames spread through his vehicle.
Friends said Mr Perry had become alarmed when his passenger started ‘flashing’ and vibrating’ as he pulled up – evidence of the device malfunctioning, experts said.
Miraculously, the driver suffered just minor cuts and bruises as well as damage to an eardrum and was discharged from hospital.
Mr Perry was hailed a ‘hero’, with well-wishers donating more than £50,000 to help replace his cab. His wife said the family’s overwhelming emotion was that he was ‘lucky to be alive’.
CCTV has emerged capturing the horrifying moment Mr Perry’s taxi became a fireball outside the reception of Liverpool Women’s Hospital, shortly before the 11am two-minute’s silence was due to take place on Sunday.
The dark-coloured taxi is seen pulling into the hospital car park at speed but it explodes before it comes to a halt outside the reception. All the windows shattered and smoke pours out of the car before a dazed Mr Perry opens the driver’s door and staggers out into the road around six seconds after the blast.
The injured taxi driver then appears to warn others to stay away from the car and there has also been praise for a man in high-viz yellow who runs towards the blazing taxi to help him. Around 30 seconds after the explosion, with smoke belching out of the car, it is engulfed by flames with the bomber still inside. One witness can be seen looking into the back seat passenger. He decides the passenger is dead and can’t be saved.
Source: Daily Mail UK