Essex teenager planned murder of soldiers or police in Snapchat terror plot

Matthew King (Met Police)
Matthew King (Met Police)

A teenager from Essex who plotted an Islamic State terror attack on police officers or soldiers boasted about his murderous plans on Snapchat, telling his girlfriend: “I just want to kill people”, the Old Bailey has heard.

Matthew King, 19, carried out surveillance at a police station, train station, and magistrates court in Stratford, east London, as well as a British Army barracks.

The teenager – a convert to Islam from Christianity - posted an image of four police officers outside the courthouse to Snapchat with the chilling caption: “Target Acquired”.

King made searches online for terrorist attacks in London Bridge, Manchester, and Streatham, and described al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden as a “great man”, the court heard.

In online conversations with a young woman he wanted to marry, King fantasised about killing and torturing UK and US Marines and repeatedly stated his desire for “jihad”.

He was reported to the Prevent counter-terrorism programme by his own mother over fears of radicalisation, and raised concerns at his local mosque over extremist comments.

King has admitted plotting terrorist acts, either by travelling to Syria to join IS or carrying out an attack in the UK.

Prosecutor Paul Jarvis told the court King had penned a song revealing his violent ambitions, including the lyrics: “I sneak round Dere wid a homemade bomb. Press number 1 on the Nokia phone and I watch that ting detonate. Smile on my face no one will escape when they meeting there fate.”

He had made searches online for “Isis knife tactical training”, the court heard, as well as the attackers at London Bridge terrorist Karim Butt and Fishmongers Hall attacker Usman Khan.

Mr Jarvis detailed footage from King’s mobile phone “recording himself waiting to cross the road close to Stratford magistrates court.

“He also captured four uniformed officers standing outside the court building.

Matthew King carried out surveillance at Stratford magistrates court (PA)
Matthew King carried out surveillance at Stratford magistrates court (PA)

“On the footage, Mr King then crossed the road and walked east bound, past the officers in the direction of The Broadway. He turned his head to the left and away from the officers as he walked past them.

“Mr King later posted an image of the officers to Snapchat with the caption ‘Target Acquired’.”

In other pieces of footage from spring 2022, King videoed a police officer at Stratford station and took footage of the location of CCTV cameras, and filmed himself walking past Stratford police station noting the entrance and exit used by officers.

Another clip made on the same day had the lyrics “terrorise the kuffar”, the court was told.

On May 17, 2022, King left the Bin Baz mosque in east London and walked to the nearby barracks belonging to the 7th Rifles Regiment, taking video clips and throwing an unknown item over the front gates.

Snapchat conversations with the woman – referred to in court as Miss A – revealed that she had encouraged his extremism and promised to marry him.

“Throughout the chat, Miss A encouraged Mr King”, said the prosecutor.

“She reminded him of her feelings for him in various ways. For example, she wrote ‘I don’t wanna look at other men’ after telling him he will be her future husband.

“Mr King replied to her: ‘I guess jihadi love is powerful’ and ‘I just want to kill people’.”

Mr Jarvis said King sent Miss A a voice message including “details of how he would get two Marines in a room together and get them to rape each other@.

In other chats online, King discussed his “goal” to die in battle for IS, saying: “I just want to die a martyr.”

And he told Miss A: “I just want to get my hands on an american marine ... or a British marine”.

He also used Telegram to discuss associates the possibility of using cryptocurrency to fund terrorism, the court heard.

When he was arrested at the family home in Wickford, Essex, police found a mass of digital evidence and discovered that King had bought camouflage clothes and military-style combat glasses and gloves.

The court heard he had been banished from a mosque in Chelmsford for uploading an image to WhatsApp of a man holding a knife, referring to “jihad” and the “day of judgment”.

“He gave the impression that he wanted to go to Syria to fight but at the same time Mr King said he did not subscribe to the views of ISIS”, said Mr Jarvis.

“On a different occasion, Mr King told someone at the mosque that they should all be doing jihad. He described Osama Bin Laden as a great man.”

The court heard King turned aggressive after he “dabbled in drugs” as a younger teenager and he was expelled from his secondary school. He left education at the age of 16 and would regularly return home while high on cannabis, but his mother reported a marked change in his behaviour in 2020.

He talked of “finding faith” and began to wear traditional Islamic clothing, eating only Halal food and learning Arabic. But he also began displaying worrying behaviour, calling his sisters “slags” for the way they dressed, and showing his mother extremist videos online.

When he was arrested, King replied:  “I don’t believe in the UK law, the only law I believe in is the law of Allah.”

He has admitted preparation of terrorist acts between December 22 2021 and May 17 2022. Judge Mark Lucraft KC, the Recorder of London, adjourned the sentencing hearing until May 26. .