Student admits mosque-goer murder
A Ukrainian student with a hatred of "non-whites" has admitted murdering an 82-year-old man and plotting to cause explosions near mosques.
Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, a postgraduate student from Dnipropetrovsk, in Ukraine, pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to murdering Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham in April.
He also admitted causing an explosion on July 12 near the Kanzal Iman mosque in Tipton, and engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between April 24 and July 18 this year.
This included planting bombs near mosques in Walsall and Wolverhampton, researching locations to plant bombs and buying chemicals on the internet to make explosives. He will be sentenced on Friday.
His father, Sergey Lapshyn, said he had concerns over the case. He told ITV News: "I've got a lot of questions. First, I don't believe he killed anyone. I just can't believe this. Second, fascism...he never was involved in politics.
"Okay, he may have been stressed, something clicked and he got certain ideas. But then, why did he try to blow up a mosque, not a synagogue? There's no logic. I've got many questions, and not many answers."
He also said he had caused an explosion at the family's flat.
"Well, once, when he was home alone, he did some chemical experiments. It was very hot, and the mix detonated. Of course we got back home immediately and none of our neighbours said anything bad.
"They just asked us not to be so loud. We talked to Pavel about it and it looked like he stopped experimenting."
The Ukrainian was in the UK on a sponsored work placement at a software firm in the Small Heath area of Birmingham when he was arrested on suspicion of Mr Saleem's murder nearby on July 20.
The pensioner and father of seven was stabbed three times yards from his house as he walked home alone after worship, on April 29, prompting an outpouring of grief from the community.
While Lapshyn remained at large, he plotted the planting of devices near three mosques as part of a campaign he said was motivated by racial hatred.
No one was injured by any of the explosions.
Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards, from West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "We found part-made devices in Lapshyn's room plus chemicals and bomb-making equipment, so it is clear he planned to place further devices with the intention of killing or maiming innocent members of the public.
"All three of the devices he detonated were powerful but his final attack in Tipton was the first to feature shrapnel and nails. He placed this near the mosque's car park with the intention of hitting worshippers as they arrived for prayers. Thankfully the service had been put back an hour so the mosque was largely deserted when the bomb went off."
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale said Lapshyn was "dangerous and evil", but not part of a wider extremist group.
He said: "I hope they (Mr Saleem's family) get some solace from it. You must feel for them when they lose their dad in such circumstances.
"But hopefully it will be one small step in coming to terms with what has been an awful, awful time."
Lapshyn had only been in the country a few days when he struck.
"It's extremely difficult when something has no footprint at all," Mr Beale said.
"This case was finally cracked because of the quality of evidence-gathering done around the CCTV following the first bomb attack."
He said it was a particularly nasty case.
"His motivation was very much that he thought the white man was better than everybody else and he was attacking for that reason. We know he killed a perfectly innocent man walking back home from prayers who had no chance to fight back at all."
Lapshyn had materials for another three explosive devices.
Mr Saleem's daughter Shazia Khan said: "We are very pleased with the outcome of today's hearing. It's a relief not to have to sit through a long and tedious trial and listen to horrific details of this violent crime.
"Our dad was a lovely, kind man who left prayers for the last time that night. He did not do anything to deserve this horrific killing other than being a Muslim.
"He was targeted simply because of his faith. His beard and his clothing represented who he was. Pavlo chose to kill him that night with only that intention in mind."
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "This is a satisfying outcome to a highly distressing case where Pavlo Lapshyn's hatred has robbed a family of a loved one and attempted to cause fear and division within our communities.
"I pay tribute to the work of West Midlands Police in bringing the perpetrator to justice and commend the resilience of communities across the West Midlands who showed such courage in the face of these cowardly attacks."
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