Father-of-four Darren Osborne, 47, was arrested on suspicion of carrying out yesterday’s carnage. Witnesses described how a driver appeared to deliberately steer a hired van at speed into a crowd tending an elderly man who had collapsed outside a mosque.
They said a white, curly-haired suspect laughed and blew kisses at the Ramadan worshippers after taunting them with: “I’m going to kill all Muslims.”
Theresa May insisted no hate crime must succeed following Darren Osborne arrest on terror charges
Last night he was named by neighbours in Cardiff, South Wales, as Osborne, who has a reputation for fighting after heavy drinking.
Given the methodology and given what was occurring, what’s happened, the tragic incidents across the country, this had all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident
Osborne’s mother Christine denied he held extremist views and told ITV News: “I am not going to defend it. He’s my son. “It is not just robbing a bank. It is an atrocity. At the moment, I just can’t cope with it.”
Osborne’s sister Nicola said she is “sorry for what’s happened”.
Speaking outside a house in Weston-super-Mare, Somerset, where family members gathered yesterday, she added: “He’s not interested in terrorism. “I’m older than him. It was my birthday last night.”
Armed police officer on the Seven Sisters road at Finsbury Park
Scotland Yard said the attack in Finsbury Park, north London, was a terrorist incident aimed at the Islamic community.
Osborne was first held on suspicion of attempted murder but Scotland Yard said he was later arrested for the commission, preparation or instigation of terrorism including murder and attempted murder.
The van attack came in the same three-month spell that the London Bridge and Westminster vehicle and knife attacks killed 13 innocent people and the Manchester suicide bomb slaughtered 22.
Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “This was quite clearly an attack on Muslims who looked like they were probably Muslims coming from a prayer meeting.
“We treat this as a terrorist attack. Sadly we have suffered a number of attacks and very sad events over the last few weeks.” Metropolitan Police Deputy Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said the Yard’s counter-terrorism command were in charge of the investigation.
“Given the methodology and given what was occurring, what’s happened, the tragic incidents across the country, this had all the hallmarks of a terrorist incident.”
Security Minister Ben Wallace confirmed that the suspect, who was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder, was not known to the security services.
Forensics officers examine the scene near Finsbury Park Mosque following terror attack
He told BBC Radio 4’s World At One: “This individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us, but we are aware of a rise in the far-Right.”
The violence unfolded at about 12.20am as worshippers left late night Ramadan prayers at the Muslim Welfare House – which is close to the Finsbury Park mosque, once notorious for hate preacher Abu Hamza.
Witnesses said a group of worshippers had gathered around a stricken man as he lay on the pavement.
Several of them were then hit by the van. After ploughing into the crowd, the driver leapt from the van and tried to run away, but was captured and wrestled to the ground by members of the public.
Abdulrahman Saleh Alamoudi, one of those helping the poorly worshipper, said the van swerved towards them.
“Luckily I managed to escape,” he said. “And then the guy came out of his van and I got him.
He was screaming, he was saying: ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims, I’m going to kill all Muslims.’ He was throwing punches.
“Then we managed to get him on the floor. Then he was saying: ‘Kill me, kill me.’
Police activity on the Seven Sisters Road at Finsbury Park
I said: ‘We are not going to kill you. Why did you do that?’ He wouldn’t say anything.”
Mr Salah Alamoudi said he had also helped to hold the suspect on the ground for up to half an hour before police arrived.
“The guy, I had to keep him at least half an hour. He was a strong guy. A big man,” he said.
Another witness, Farhad Laichour, 40, said: “I could hear a lot of people were screaming. I saw five people on the floor and they were screaming.
“There were about eight or nine people hurt and about four of them had what looked really serious injuries. There were two disabled people and they were all elderly. There was a group of them and they were all Somalian I believe.”
He added: “He was trying to get Muslims. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. “I couldn’t sleep last night. I felt so sorry for these people.”
A chef, who gave his name as Mimo, said: “I had just been having a cup of tea with my friends further down Seven Sisters Road and we were walking down the street.
“Then I heard the screech of tyres and I head loads of people screaming. We went back there near the mosque and saw the van had hit loads of people.
“People were lying on the floor bleeding. There were five or six people on the floor and I saw people giving CPR. The police and ambulance were giving CPR as well.
Osborne’s mother Christine says ‘It is an atrocity’
“The police and ambulance were there quite quickly. At first I didn’t know what was going on. I was so shocked, it was horrific.
“At first I thought it was just a crash. But now it looks like an attack.”
Witnesses said the suspect was smiling, waving, blowing kisses and giving “V for victory” signs as he sat in the police van, waiting to be taken away.
Police said all 10 injured were Muslims, with eight taken to hospital – one later discharged – and two others treated at the scene.
Senior officers said it was too early to say if the man who died did so directly because of the attack, as he was already receiving first aid from the public when it happened.
Last night officers raided Osborne’s home in Pentwyn, Cardiff, where the van used in yesterday’s attack was hired from Pontyclun Van Hire.
According to public records, Osborne was born in Singapore in 1969. He is believed to have grown up in Weston-super-Mare but later moved to South Wales and is said to have separated from his partner six months ago.
Asked if he had ever expressed extremist views or behaviour, his mother said: “No, none whatsoever. Nothing at all.” She described her son as being a “complex” person but said “that’s all I can say”.
Staff at Pontyclun Van Hire said they were co-operating fully with police
Neighbours said Osborne is a “devoted father” who was last seen collecting his children from his former partner’s home and taking them to school on Friday.
An ex-schoolmate who attended Broadoak Mathematics and Computing College in Weston-superMare with him told them: “I went to school with him, I’ve known him for 35 years.”
Osborne was described as a fiery character who was a regular in Cardiff’s pubs.
One neighbour said: “I arrived home from work to find the street crawling with police – it’s a complete shock.”
A former neighbour added: “We all know Darren, from our youth generally. “When I heard what happened it absolutely made me feel ill. He is nothing but trouble but you don’t imagine this.
“He left Weston years ago I believe because he caused trouble and had to leave. He would just drink too much and flip the switch I guess.”
Staff at Pontyclun Van Hire said they were co-operating fully with police. It is not known if the van was hired or stolen from the firm.
It said in a statement: “We at Pontyclun Van Hire are shocked and saddened by the incident.”