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Terrorism probe of asylum seeker killer not to be considered at victim’s inquest

Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, 21, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 29 years at Salisbury Crown Court for murdering 21-year-old Thomas Roberts following an argument over a scooter, outside a Subway shop in Bournemouth, Dorset (Dorset Police/PA)
Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, 21, was sentenced to life imprisonment with a minimum term of 29 years at Salisbury Crown Court for murdering 21-year-old Thomas Roberts following an argument over a scooter, outside a Subway shop in Bournemouth, Dorset (Dorset Police/PA)

A review of potential terrorism involvement of an asylum seeker who murdered a 21-year-old man will not be considered at the victim’s inquest because his death “was not terrorist-related”, a coroner has said.

Thomas Roberts, 21, was stabbed to death by Afghan Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai as he acted as a “peacemaker” in an argument between the killer and his friend James Medway in Bournemouth, Dorset, on March 12 2022.

Abdulrahimzai, who arrived in the UK in December 2019, told the authorities at the time of his arrest that he was 14 when he arrived in the country before it was determined by the courts he had been 18.

It also emerged that Abdulrahimzai was put in foster care on his arrival in the UK despite being convicted and handed a 20-year prison term in his absence for murdering two people with a Kalashnikov assault rifle in Serbia.

The 21-year-old was sentenced at Salisbury Crown Court in January to life imprisonment to serve a minimum of 29 years, with immigration minister Robert Jenrick saying that he was likely to be deported at the end of his sentence.

A previous pre-inquest review into Mr Roberts’ death heard that the Home Office’s Prevent anti-terrorism programme had been made aware of Abdulrahimzai a year before the fatal incident.

A further hearing held at Bournemouth on Tuesday was told a review into this involvement, as well as a peer review of the report outcomes, had been carried out by the Home Office.

But Dorset coroner Rachael Griffin said that she considered the reviews were not relevant to Mr Roberts’ death and she intended not to include them as evidence in the inquest.

She said: “My provisional view is Tom’s death was not related to a terrorist incident or terrorist activity and therefore my view is the matters of which that Prevent review goes into are not relevant to this inquest.

“I am content they do not assist this coronial investigation into Tom’s death. I do find the Prevent review falls out of the scope of the inquest.”

Aaron Moss, representing Avon and Somerset Police and Counter Terrorism Police South West, had told the hearing that if the coroner had felt the review was relevant to the inquest, it would be seeking for the contents to be withheld because of national security issues.

The coroner told the hearing that Mr Roberts’ family had raised concerns over Abdulrahimzai’s entry into the UK and that he had been reported to police for being in possession of a knife two days before the victim’s death.

She said: “The two concerns Tom’s family have are around the checks taken when Mr Abdulrahimzai entered the country and, secondly, the events of 10th March when he was reported to be in possession of a bladed article, these are the crux of the concerns Tom’s family have.”

The previous hearing heard that a review of the Home Office’s role in processing Abdulrahimzai’s immigration status had been completed but this would be restricted as it could reveal procedures used when processing applicants.

Miles Grandison, representing the Home Office, told Tuesday’s hearing that it would be making submissions on redactions to this review if the coroner decided it should be used as evidence in the inquest.

Ms Griffin said: “I will always try to be open and transparent but I am mindful there are security issues that I have to bear in mind.”

Regarding the knife incident, Ms Griffin said that Dorset Police had referred itself to the Independent Office of Police Conduct (IOPC) and then been directed to carry out a review by its professional standards department.

She said the review found that there had been “no threat made and there was no immediate risk of his possession of the bladed article” and added that the review “found that there was no act or omission that was contributory to Tom’s death”.

Ms Griffin adjourned the hearing for a further pre-inquest review to be held on March 8 when she said she would determine whether she would hold a full inquest into Mr Roberts’ death taking into consideration the views of the victim’s family and other interested persons.