Ali Harbi Ali, the 25-year-old detained on charges relating to Friday’s murder of MP Sir David Amess, grew up in Croydon and attended two local schools, including what was then known as the Parish Church junior and infants school.
School staff and neighbours remember Ali and his family as being helpful and enthusiastic members of the local community. “They would arrive at the school gates to collect their children, and always say ‘Hello’, and ask how things were,” one former teacher told Inside Croydon.
“They were never any trouble.”
A teacher said that the family, which included Ali and three siblings, was in no way “radicalised”. The opposite was in fact the case, they said.
One of the first Muslim families to have children at the Church of England school, they are remembered for integrating well.
It was later confirmed by Sky News that Ali had also attended Riddlesdown Collegiate.
Counter-terrorism police today continued searching a Croydon house not far from the Flyover, on Cranmer Road, the family home where Ali grew up.
His father, Harbi Ali Kullane, is a former media adviser to the prime minister of Somalia. When he worked in Mogadishu, Kullane was involved in several anti-terrorist campaigns against the jihadist group al-Shabab, and as a result had himself faced death threats.
Yesterday Kullane, 61, told the Sunday Times, “I’m feeling very traumatised.
“It’s not something that I expected or even dreamed of,” he said.
The police have been granted a warrant of further detention which allows them to hold the suspect until October 22.
Ali Harbi Ali is a British national. It has been reported that he was at one point referred to Prevent, a government scheme which attempts to divert people away from extremism, after concerns were raised about his behaviour.
However, while it is believed Ali was known to counterterrorist police, he was not considered a significant enough risk to come to the notice of the security services.
Detectives are understood to be investigating the possibility that he may have been “self-radicalised” online during lockdown.
Ali’s most recent home address, in Kentish Town, has also been subjected to an extensive police search.
Former neighbours in Croydon remember Ali as living at the family home until he was 16 or 17, and that both he and one of his sisters worked for the NHS.
“They are a lovely family,” one neighbour was quoted as saying in online reports.
“It’s such a shock that Ali has been arrested for such a terrible thing.
“His mum and sisters helped my wife and I during lockdown, they went and got my shopping when I needed it and my medication. They’d do anything to help us.
“That’s why I can’t understand it all. I last saw Ali around Christmas time last year and he was friendly, asked me how I was.
“I saw one of his sisters talking to the police on Friday afternoon and I haven’t seen the family since. There were three police cars and some unmarked vehicles.”
Another neighbour told television news, “We didn’t see much of them, all four [children] were head down and studying. When he was younger, Ali used to kick a ball around outside here.
“It’s been a bit of a shock watching the news on TV and then seeing the Old Bill here at the house.
“It’s a great shame. I feel very sorry for the mother.”
Sir David Amess, 69, had been a Conservative MP for Essex constituencies since 1983.
On Friday he was conducting his weekly constituency surgery in Leigh-on-Sea when he was stabbed multiple times.
In an update issued today by Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan Police said, “The 25-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of murder after Sir David, Member of Parliament for Southend West, was fatally stabbed at an address in Eastwood Road North, Leigh-on-Sea, shortly after 12:05hrs on Friday, 15 October.
“A knife used in the attack was recovered at the scene. No one else was treated for injuries following the incident.
“The incident has been formally declared as terrorism by Senior National Coordinator for Counter Terrorism Policing, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Dean Haydon. The Met’s Counter Terrorism Command is leading the investigation.
“Late on Friday, 15 October, whilst in police custody, the man was subsequently further detained under Section 41 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and he is now being held at a London police station.
“On Saturday, 16 October, detectives were granted a warrant of further detention at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, allowing them to keep the man in custody until Friday, 22 October, when the warrant expires.
“As part of the fast-paced investigation, officers have attended three addresses in the London area and conducted searches. One of these searches has concluded and the others are ongoing.”
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