A Muslim convert nicknamed “The Eagle” has been jailed for at least 15 years for planning a “spectacular” terror attack on Oxford Street in London.
Lewis Ludlow, 27, swore allegiance to Islamic State as he prepared to drive a van through London’s shopping district or Madame Tussauds.
The former Royal Mail worker, who called himself “The Eagle” and “The Ghost”, bought a phone under a false name and wrote down his attack plans, which were later found ripped up in a bin.
He identified Oxford Street as an “ideal” spot, writing: “It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack.”
Last year, he pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey to plotting an attack in the UK and funding IS abroad.
Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC jailed Ludlow for life with a minimum term of 15 years.
Ludlow was also sentenced to a further seven years in prison to run concurrently for the funding offence.
The judge said Ludlow had been engaged in preparations for a “spectacular” multi-casualty attack “with the intention of causing death or terror”.
He told the defendant: “Your commitment at the time we are concerned with to violent extremism ran very deep and for some time.
“There could be no other explanation for your preparing to kill innocent people in a vehicle attack for ideological reasons.”
Judge Hilliard rejected the suggestion Ludlow had been coerced by an Islamic State supporter in the Philippines, saying the defendant was “nobody’s fool”.
He added: “I do not regard you as suggestible or easily taken advantage of. You were well able to resist the Prevent programme.”
The court heard how Ludlow, from Rochester in Kent, first came to the attention of police in 2010 when he attended a demonstration led by radical preacher Anjem Choudary and his banned Al-Muhajiroun (ALM) group.
When he was arrested in 2015, IS material was found on Ludlow’s electronic devices but no further action was taken.
In January 2018, he bought a ticket to fly to the Philippines on February 3 but was stopped at the airport and had his passport seized.
Having set up a PayPal account and a fake Facebook site called Antique Collections, he sent money to an IS supporter, Abu Yaqeen, in the Philippines.
Ludlow also turned his attention to launching an attack in Britain, with encouragement from Yaqeen, the court heard.
He visited an internet cafe in Vauxhall Bridge Road in central London where he searched online for shopping centres, Oxford Street and the Isis flag.
Police later recovered torn-up scraps of paper from Ludlow’s bin detailing potential attack sites, including Madame Tussauds, Oxford Street, St Paul’s Cathedral and a “Shia temple in Romford”.
He detailed a potential attack on Oxford Street using a van mounting the pavement, noting the lack of safety barriers.
He wrote: “Wolf should either use a ram attack or use … on the truck to maximise death … it is a busy street it is ideal for an attack. It is expected nearly 100 could be killed in the attack.”
On April 13 Ludlow’s mobile phone was retrieved from a storm drain and found to have videos of the defendant swearing allegiance to IS and evidence of “hostile reconnaissance”.
When Ludlow was arrested by counter-terrorism police he refused to explain himself in interview.
Following his guilty plea, autistic Ludlow told how he rejected an MI5 advance in March 2017 but agreed to engage with the Prevent programme.
He became “bitter” and “heartbroken” when he was barred from going to the Philippines, he said: “I felt that I was trapped like an animal unable to escape its cage.”
At first, Abu Yaqeen asked for money then talked him into plotting an attack in Britain, saying “you have to kill them”, he claimed.
Ludlow told the court: “I said no at first, I did not want to because I felt this was a bit scary and then he said: ‘You have to do it. You have to kill them, make them pay in blood, you must get revenge. They are not innocent. They deserve to die.’
“He said the best way to do so was using a ram attack. He said in order to achieve such a spectacular attack we should use a truck bomb attack to achieve the necessary effect.
“He said to me: ‘Don’t you want to die a martyr? They deserve it.’”
Detective Chief Superintendent Kath Barnes, head of Counter Terrorism Policing South East, said: “Ludlow was planning an attack in the UK after swearing an oath of allegiance to Daesh, and he had gone as far as writing out attack plans and conducting reconnaissance of potential targets.
“We have dedicated units across the country who accept the extraordinary challenge of keeping the public safe from terrorist attacks. I have no doubt that Ludlow was fully intent on committing a serious violent act in the name of Daesh’s twisted ideology, and it is testament to the hard work of all involved that he has been jailed.
“Although this attack was foiled, we continue to work tirelessly to ensure that offenders such as Ludlow are brought to justice before they can commit their violent intentions.”