A female Islamic State (ISIS) supporter was on Friday sentenced to life imprisonment after pleading guilty to terrorism charges, including a plot to bomb London's famous St. Paul's Cathedral.
Safiyya Amira Shaikh, a 37-year-old Muslim convert who was born Michelle Ramsden, was arrested in October last year following an undercover operation by counter-terrorism officers.
At a hearing at the Old Bailey court in London, she admitted to terrorism offences earlier this year and was sentenced this week to life imprisonment, with a minimum term of 14 years behind bars before being considered for parole.
"Safiyya Shaikh chose to live her life as a violent extremist with a murderous hatred of those who did not share her twisted version of Islam," said Jenny Hopkins, Head of the Special Crime and Counter Terrorism Division at the UK's Crown Prosecution Service (CPS).
"She hoped to inspire others by sharing terrorist images on social media but wanted to go much further. The damning evidence presented by the CPS of her planned suicide mission to St. Paul's Cathedral left her with no room to talk her way out of the charges," said Hopkins.
Shaikh planned to collect two bags containing bombs from someone she had been talking to online and who she thought shared her support for ISIS but was in fact an undercover officer.
The court heard that her plan was to detonate one bomb at the London cathedral in order to kill herself and visitors and planned to use the second device at the hotel where she would have stayed ahead of the act in attacks planned for Easter in April this year.
Police passed evidence to the CPS of Shaikh going into St. Paul's Cathedral last September and sending photos and videos from inside the building to the undercover contact. She also described the security at the cathedral.
She was secretly filmed handing over two bags to a woman at a park in west London. The plan was for the bags to be returned to her at a later date with working bombs inside.
The police raided her flat and arrested her in October 2019.
Richard Smith, Head of the Metropolitan Police Counter Terrorism Command, said: "This case is a stark reminder that the threat from terrorism remains as real as ever.
"Shaikh was dedicated to her extremist beliefs. In addition to wanting to carry out her own sickening attack on UK soil, she hoped to inspire others to implement attack plans even after she had died. Thanks to the hard work of officers from both the Met Police and MI5, she is instead in jail.
Shaikh, from Hayes in west London, pleaded guilty to sharing terrorist material with others via the Telegram messenger application with the intention of encouraging others to commit terrorist acts.
This included images of a bomb exploding on Tower Bridge and of a Tube platform with a message to Muslims to fight non-believers.
Shaikh was prosecuted by the Counter Terrorism Division of the CPS, which presented evidence of Shaikh's contact with the undercover officers from August last year.
On that day she told them: "I rather die young and get Jannah [paradise] quickest way possible, we love death they love life, I always knows [sic] I wanted do something big killing one kafir [unbeliever] is not enough for me."
On Telegram, at the same time, she praised ISIS, encouraged the killing of civilians throughout the world, and provided suggestions on different ways to carry out an attack.
Using evidence gathered by the police, the CPS was able to prove that Shaikh personally created, or instructed others to create violent images, and then circulated them.
During police interviews, Shaikh claimed that she "reverted" to Islam in 2007 after being impressed by the kindness of a Muslim family, but became disillusioned by what she saw as the moderate version of Islam she found at local mosques. She began to read, follow and talk to extremists online.
By around 2015, she had come to accept their extremist beliefs.