London: A British Muslim convert has pleaded guilty to plotting an Islamic State-inspired terrorist attack on targets in London, including the city's shopping hub of Oxford Street and Madame Tussauds wax museum. Lewis Ludlow admitted to swearing allegiance to Islamic State (ISIS) terror group and preparing to drive a van through major targets in the British capital at the Old Bailey court in London.
"At its highest it is a plot to cause mass fatalities using a vehicle in Oxford Street, targeting the Disney store amongst other places, at its busiest time," Prosecutor Mark Dawson told the court.
Using a false name, the 26-year-old bought a mobile phone and wrote down his plans to carry out an attack in notes later found by counter-terrorism officers torn up in pieces in a bin. He picked out Oxford Street as an "ideal target" and wrote: "It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack".
Ludlow, a postal worker with Royal Mail from Kent near London, planned an attack after being stopped by police at Heathrow Airport in February as he tried to board a flight to the Philippines. He was arrested by counter-terrorism police on April 18 and at an initial court appearance refused to stand, telling the chief magistrate he could only stand for Allah.
"Ludlow had gone as far as writing out attack plans and conducting reconnaissance of potential targets. I have no doubt that the public will be much safer as a result of our actions," said Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, head of counterterrorism policing in the southeast.
He was due to go on trial later this year on two charges of preparing acts of terrorism and one of terror funding but he pleaded guilty to plotting an attack in the UK and funding ISIS abroad at the hearing on Friday.
He appeared via a video link from the high-security Belmarsh jail and pleaded guilty to preparing acts of terrorism and raising funds for terrorism. He will be sentenced on November 2.
Ludlow, who called himself the Eagle, is alleged to have set up a Facebook account called Antique Collections as a front to send money to Asia to fund terrorism.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said Ludlow first came to the attention of police in 2010 when he attended a demonstration led by extremist radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) group. He was arrested in 2015 and ISIS material was recovered from his electronic devices but police took no further action.
In January, he bought a ticket to fly to the Philippines and was stopped at the airport and his passport was seized. He told police he was going to the country as a sex tourist. But officers searching his home found he was in communication with a man named Abu Yaqeen in an area with a major ISIS presence.
Detectives also retrieved Ludlow's mobile phone from a storm drain on 13 April and discovered videos of the defendant swearing allegiance to ISIS and pictures of crowded areas, said to be evidence of "hostile reconnaissance".
In a video message, Ludlow said his allegiance was to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of ISIS and said, "May his name strike terror into your hearts". "I am the Eagle and I pledge allegiance to Dawlatul Islam [ISIS]," he said.