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How straight-A student who tried to assassinate an MP with two kitchen knives will rot in maximum security prison for the rest of her life


A straight-A student who tried to assassinate an MP with two kitchen knives could rot in a maximum security prison for the rest of her life after her bid to be moved to an open prison was blocked at the last minute.

Al Qaeda-inspired Roshonara Choudhry, then 21, was jailed for life at the Old Bailey in 2010 for trying to murder Labour MP Stephen Timms in Newham, east London.

She attacked him with a three-inch kitchen knife at a constituency surgery on May 14, 2010, to ‘get revenge for the people of Iraq’ – to the shock of friends and teachers who had seen Choudhry as a star student and aspiring teacher.

The married politician, 55 at the time of the attack, was knifed twice in the stomach – suffering wound lacerations to the left lobe of his liver – but survived after surgery.

Choudhry, found guilty of attempted murder and jailed for life with a minimum 15 years, had been radicalised online – obsessively watching terror preachers’ sermons.

Roshonara Choudhry, pictured here at Madame Tussaud's in London with a waxwork Spiderman, became radicalised online before attempting to murder MP Stephen Timms

Roshonara Choudhry, pictured here at Madame Tussaud’s in London with a waxwork Spiderman, became radicalised online before attempting to murder MP Stephen Timms

Roshonara Choudhry, jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years at the Old Bailey in November 2010, has now failed in a bid to be transferred to an open prison

Roshonara Choudhry, jailed for life with a minimum of 15 years at the Old Bailey in November 2010, has now failed in a bid to be transferred to an open prison

Dominic Raab intervened in early 2023 when Justice Secretary to block Roshonara Choudhury's move to an open prison

Dominic Raab intervened in early 2023 when Justice Secretary to block Roshonara Choudhury’s move to an open prison

MailOnline can now reveal that Choudhry, now 33, had an ‘oral hearing’ in January last year ‘and indicated through her legal representative that she hoped to be transferred to open conditions as a result of the Parole Board review.’

The board agreed she should be moved to an open prison – only for then-Justice Secretary Dominic Raab to intervene and ensure she was kept in a closed jail, on the grounds of public safety.

Such an intervention by the secretary of state is rare, with fewer than one per cent of Parole Board recommendations being turned down over the last five years. 

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice said: ‘Protecting the public is our number one priority which is why we’ve put in place a tougher three-step test for moves to open prisons – ultimately blocking Roshonara Choudry’s transfer.’

Choudhry – believed to be behind bars at top-security women’s prison HMP Bronzefield in Ashford, Surrey – will become eligible for release after serving her minimum tariff in May next year, likely to coincide with her next parole hearing.

Her descent from promising pupil to murderous terrorist sympathiser – said to have wanted to ‘become a martyr’ – baffled many, including her victim who suggested she had been ‘a very bright young woman with everything to live for’.

Her Old Bailey trial in November heard Choudhry was born to a Bangladeshi family in Newham who were not particularly religious and lived in East Ham, east London.

She was the eldest of five and a gifted student and linguist, being fluent in four languages including French.

She obtained straight As in her GCSEs and A-levels and went on on to study at the prestigious King’s College London, while she spent weekends volunteering for an east London Islamic school and was thought to have wanted to become a teacher.

But at the time of the attack Choudhry had just dropped out of an English and Communications degree after two years, despite having won several academic prizes during that time.

Alan Fortune, the senior lecturer who taught Choudhry, said after her trial: ‘She was a most talented and respected ­students and was on course to achieve a first-class ­honours degree.’ 

Friends had believed she felt little interest in religion, only her studies. 

But police would discover that, behind her respectable facade, Choudhry was angry that King’s had given an award to the Israeli politician Shimon Peres in addition to running anti-radicalisation programmes.

Their investigations found her online radicalisation was fuelled by the sermons of Anwar al-Awlaki, leader of Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

Labour MP Stephen Timms, pictured leaving the Royal London Hospital in May 2010, was stabbed twice in the stomach - suffering wound lacerations to the left lobe of his liver

Labour MP Stephen Timms, pictured leaving the Royal London Hospital in May 2010, was stabbed twice in the stomach – suffering wound lacerations to the left lobe of his liver

Roshonara Choudhry stabbed Mr Timms with the top knife, with a three-inch blade, and took along the five-inch blade second weapon as a back-up in case the first broke

Roshonara Choudhry stabbed Mr Timms with the top knife, with a three-inch blade, and took along the five-inch blade second weapon as a back-up in case the first broke

In November 2009, Choudhry began downloading more than 100 hours of sermons and lectures by al-Awlaki in which he preached the need for ‘violent action to combat the atrocities of the West against Muslims around the world’. 

He has claimed: ‘Assassinations, bombings, and acts of arson are all legitimate forms of revenge against a system that relishes the sacrilege of Islam in the name of freedom.’

In interviews with police, Choudhry explained how she had stumbled across his teachings on YouTube and went on to watch more than 100 hours of sermons.

She said: ‘I wasn’t searching for him, I just came across him. He explains things really ­comprehensively and in an interesting way so I thought I could learn a lot from him.

‘I was also surprised at how ­little I knew about my ­religion so that motivated me to learn more.’

She also said she did not attend a mosque but would ‘just pray at home’ and when asked he should talked about Islam with, she replied: ‘In general I just talk about it to my brothers and sisters but I don’t mention everything to them.’

Anwar al-Awlaki, pictured, used his personal website to encourage Muslims around the world to take revenge on the US and UK for the Iraq war - inspiring Roshonara Choudhry

Anwar al-Awlaki, pictured, used his personal website to encourage Muslims around the world to take revenge on the US and UK for the Iraq war – inspiring Roshonara Choudhry

Choudhry would watch two of the lectures each day and finished the complete set in the first week of May, days before the attack – with the sermons changing her views of the Iraq war and its backers, which had not been especially marked beforehand.

She also read a book recommended by Al-Awlaki called ‘The Book of Jihad’ by Ibn Nuhaas, with chapter titles such as ‘The virtues of killing a non-believer for the sake of Allah’.

Choudhry identified radical Islamic website Revolutionmuslim.com as another source of inspiration.

The site published a list of MPs voting in favour of the Iraq war and urged Muslims to take up the ‘knife of jihad’ against them, explaining how to find constituency surgeries’ times and addresses ‘where you can encounter them in person’. 

Choudhry methodically planned the attack, registering her local East Ham MP Mr Timms’s pro Iraq War views.

The pair had actually met three years earlier when she was part of a group of sixth-form students to whom he gave a tour of the Houses of Parliament – during which another girl kept asking about the war in Iraq.

Choudhry later recalled to police: ‘At the time I was ­thinking that she should be quiet and that she was embarrassing herself – I didn’t say anything to support her, I just sat there feeling embarrassed.

‘I guess I respected her for having the guts to say all these things to his face but I wasn’t brave enough to say anything, I just sat quietly.’

She acted, however, in 2010 when she made an appointment to see Mr Timms at 2.45pm on May 14 at his surgery at Beckton Globe community centre. 

CCTV footage shown at Choudhry's Old Bailey trial revealed her, pictured right, entering Beckton Globe community centre on May 14 2010 carrying a bag containing her two knives

CCTV footage shown at Choudhry’s Old Bailey trial revealed her, pictured right, entering Beckton Globe community centre on May 14 2010 carrying a bag containing her two knives

Choudhry, pictured in the bottom left-hand corner, is seen plunging a knife into Labour MP Stephen Timms, just out of shot

Choudhry, pictured in the bottom left-hand corner, is seen plunging a knife into Labour MP Stephen Timms, just out of shot

One of the two kitchen knives Choudhry packed to carry out the attack is shown circled

One of the two kitchen knives Choudhry packed to carry out the attack is shown circled

A security guard managed to grab Choudhry, then 21, to end the violent assault on Mr Timms

A security guard managed to grab Choudhry, then 21, to end the violent assault on Mr Timms

She packed a three-inch blade as well as a back-up five-inch blade in case the first broke, while also paying off her student loans and emptying her bank account to ensure the British state could not seize her money after her arrest.

After being called to see the former Chief Secretary to the Treasury at the surgery at 3pm, she walked around the desk and extended her left hand to greet him.

As she did so, she produced a knife in her right hand and stabbed him in the abdomen – then thrust the knife at him again as he tried to ward off the blow.

He later recalled: ‘I thought she must have been coming to shake my hand – she looked friendly, she was smiling.

‘I was a little puzzled because a Muslim woman dressed in that way would not normally be willing to shake a man’s hand, still less to take the ­initiative to do so.

‘She stabbed me twice and after that, I did retreat – I retreated into the toilet, which was behind where I was standing, lifted up my jumper and realised there was quite a lot of blood there.’

When subsequently asked what she had been trying to do, Choudhry replied: ‘I was trying to kill him.’

She later added: ‘I wasn’t going to stop stabbing him until someone made me.’

She told of Googling Mr Timms and found he was ‘very strongly’ in favour of the Iraq war.

When asked by police, ‘What makes you think that it’s your place to go and stab him?’, she replied: ‘Because I’m a Muslim and all Muslims are brothers and sisters – so if he attacked them, then he’s likely to attack me too.’ 

Mr Timms was taken to the Royal London Hospital where he underwent emergency surgery, having ­suffered lacerations to the left lobe of the liver and a perforation to the stomach.

The injuries were ‘potentially life-threatening’, but he was released after five days and made a full recovery.  

Choudhry, who refused to attend the trial, appeared by videolink for sentencing after showing no remorse – and smiled as she was addressed by the judge.

Mr Justice Cooke, sentencing, told her: ‘You said you ruined the rest of your life. You said it was worth it. You said you wanted to be a martyr.’

He went on to tell Choudhry he hoped she would come to understand the ‘distorted nature’ of her thinking and repent.

Choudhry, now 33, is believed to be remaining behind bars at HMP Bronzefield

Choudhry, now 33, is believed to be remaining behind bars at HMP Bronzefield

Bronzefield, in Ashford in Surrey, is Britain's largest and highest-security prison for women

Bronzefield, in Ashford in Surrey, is Britain’s largest and highest-security prison for women

Mr Timms – now Sir Stephen, since being knighted in 2022 – said: ‘My real worry about it all is that a very bright young woman with everything to live for would reach the conclusion that she should throw it all away by attempting to kill the local MP.

Labour's East Ham MP Sir Stephen Timms, knighted in 2022, has called for a tougher crackdown on extremist websites

Labour’s East Ham MP Sir Stephen Timms, knighted in 2022, has called for a tougher crackdown on extremist websites

‘It is puzzling and alarming that she seems to have reached the conclusion by spending time on some website.

‘That raises questions about what’s on the web – as I understand it, the material she accessed would be illegal if it were hosted in the UK.’

Sir Stephen, now 68, has since called in the Commons for ministers to do more to ensure internet firms remove extremist material from websites including videos on YouTube. 

Choudhry’s sentencing hearing was disrupted by shouts from the public gallery of ‘British go to hell’ and ‘curse the judge’, by people believed to be from the banned UK organisation Al-Muhajiroun, also known as Islam4uk. 

IT worker Bilal Zaheer Ahmad, then 24 and from Wolverhampton, was jailed for 12 years in July 2011 after praising Choudhry online as a ‘heroine’.

He became the first person to be found guilty of inciting religious hatred under new laws banning the publication of inflammatory material. 

Ahmad had written on Facebook after Choudhry’s attack on Mr Timms, who he said ‘got off lightly’: ‘This sister has put us men to shame. We should be doing this.’

And he wrote on a free newspaper website: ‘Roshonara Choudhry is a heroine. Free Roshonara Choudhry and give her a medal for justice.’

The summary of Choudhry’s latest Parole Board hearing, seen by MailOnline, states that evidence was given by a host of experts involved in her incarceration – including prison officers, a psychiatrist and Imam employed by the jail.

The report states that Mr Timms did not give a victim impact statement, though he was eligible to do so.

Under the headline of ‘Risk Assessment’, the summary says: ‘At the time of her offending, these risk factors had included social isolation and feelings of anger and injustice which left her open to radicalisation through indoctrination.

‘Ms Choudhry had experienced a sense of low self-worth. Her behaviour in prison had raised no concerns and Ms Choudhry’s conduct was described as exemplary.

‘She had undertaken accredited programmes to address self-identity, extremist beliefs and deradicalisation.

‘Risks were assessed to be not imminent though it was recognised that Ms Choudhry would continue to need support.’

The summary concluded: ‘On considering all of the criteria for recommending placement in open conditions, the panel recommended that Ms Choudhry should be progressed in this way.’

A spokesperson for the Parole Board said: ‘The Parole Board refused the release of Roshonara Choudhry but recommended a move to an open conditions prison following an oral hearing in January 2023.

‘This was a recommendation only and the Secretary of State for Justice considers the advice before making the final decision on whether a prisoner is suitable for open conditions.’

Chris Phillips, the UK’s former Head of the National Counter Terrorism, told MailOnline: ‘The criminal justice system is not fit for purpose. Releasing dangerous terrorists is just not acceptable.

‘Terrorists should be treated like mental health patients and only be released when safe. There needs to be proof that they have been deradicalised rather than an automatic release or parole.’



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