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London Bridge inquest: Gym owner denies close links to attackers


A poster is hung on a bike rack near London Bridge following a terrorist attack, on June 6, 2017 in London, England.   (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
A poster is hung on a bike rack near London Bridge following a terrorist attack, on June 6, 2017 in London, England. (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)

A MAN who owned the gym where London Bridge attack ringleader worked said on Monday (24) that he had very little contact with the attackers.

Sajeel Shahid, owner of Ummah Fitness Centre and Ad-Deen primary school, both in Ilford, had exchanged hundreds of text messages with Khuram Butt in the six months before the attack. But the texts weren’t extremist in nature, said Shahid.

The Old Bailey heard that there were 39 phone calls and 329 text messages between Butt’s phone and one shared by Shahid.

“I think it’s to do with gym related affairs,” Shahid said. “Maybe I was on broadcast group where he sent messages.”

He added: “I can’t remember, if it’s that many it’s got to be normal messages about fitness or normal messages about Islam.

“I can’t remember him sending me messages that were in their nature extremist or violent.”

Shahid denied the possibility that Butt and his fellow attackers, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba, used the gym to plan their attack. The trio was caught on CCTV having a late-night meeting at the gym just days before the terror attack.

Shahid, a former member of Anjem Choudary’s al-Muhajiroun Islamist network, said he also did not recall how Butt started teaching children the Quran at Ad-Deen primary school.

Butt reportedly told children that non-Muslims were the “worst creatures” and that they could lie to their parents “when there is a state of war”.

Shahid did not discuss Butt with the school’s headteacher, his former partner Sophie Rahman, because their relationship had deteriorated.

“Nobody knew what he was going to commit,” he added. “How am I supposed to know what he is thinking, what he was planning, what he was in mind?

“If I ever knew he was capable of anything like this I would have reported him to police and had him arrested.”

The inquest is due to conclude this week.