A Ukrainian student with a hatred of “non-whites” pleads guilty to stabbing an 82-year-old grandfather to death and causing explosions near mosques in the West Midlands.
Pavlo Lapshyn, a postgraduate student from Dnipropetrovsk, in Ukraine, who moved to Birmingham after winning a work placement contest, was charged with the murder of Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from a mosque.
Mr Saleem, the pensioner and father-of-seven, was stabbed three times just yards from his house as he walked home alone after worship on 29 April. He was described as “a much-loved and respected community member” in a family statement at the time.
Twenty-five-year-old Lapshyn also admitted to causing an explosion on 12 July near the Kanzal Iman mosque in Tipton and planting bombs near mosques in Walsall and Wolverhampton, researching locations to plant bombs and buying chemicals on the internet to make explosives.
He will reappear at the Old Bailey for sentencing on Friday 25 October.
The court heard how the self-confessed racist, from Dnipropetrovesk but in the UK on a year-long visa had “acted alone.”
Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards, from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: “In interview Lapshyn stressed he was acting alone – not part of a wider cell or influenced by any group – and was keen to take credit for masterminding and carrying out the attacks.”
Mr Lapshyn would undoubtedly have gone on to ramp-up his bombing campaign, had he not been caught, the court heard.
Mr Edwards added: “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.
Nails collected from the blast site in Tipton
“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.”
Mr Lapshyn planted the first of his improvised explosive devices – hidden in a child’s lunchbox – by gates outside Walsall’s Aisha Mosque in Rutter Street on 21 June and followed that seven days later by detonating an IED on a roundabout near Wolverhampton Central Mosque.
And on 12 July he packed hundreds of nails into a bomb placed on a rail embankment near Kanzul Iman Masjid mosque in Binfield Street, Tipton, which sent debris flying across the car-park and into a residential street.
Detectives investigating the initial Walsall blast trawled many hours of CCTV and managed to identify Lapshyn arriving at the scene with his deadly package and leaving minutes later empty handed.
More security camera scrutiny enabled officers to plot the Ukraine Metallurgical Academy graduate’s route on a bus to Birmingham and an earlier service taking him into the city centre from Small Heath.
The Ukrainian had been 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 20 July.
Speaking outside the court, Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale described Lapshyn as “dangerous and evil.”
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.”
He added: “He (Lapshyn) was extremely dangerous. It is of great relief that he is not free to walk the streets any further.
“He’s a dangerous, evil and completely ill-informed man. There is no justification for the crimes he committed or the intent that he has.
“He was operating alone, he was a lone actor.”