A terrorist legally entered the UK claiming he wanted to watch the filming of Britain’s Got Talent seven years before blowing himself up outside a maternity hospital.
Emad Al Swealmeen had previously tried to make two firearms and had stockpiled ammunition prompting fears he had first planned a marauding gun attack.
A two-year police investigation has concluded that Al Swealmeen, who had a history of mental illness, had likely been motivated by anger directed at the British state for refusing his asylum claim.
His attack plans had been “in train” for a 20-month period until his death.
Police said the intended target of the attack on Nov 14 2021 was likely the maternity unit at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and that the use of “several hundred ball bearings as shrapnel” showed an “intention to inflict multiple casualties”.
But experts concluded the bomb was “unstable” and had “exploded earlier than planned” killing Al Swealmeen before he could leave the taxi as it pulled up outside the hospital.
The taxi driver David Perry miraculously survived after jumping from the burning vehicle.
It had previously been speculated that Al Swealmeen had planned to detonate the improvised explosive device at a nearby Remembrance Sunday event at Liverpool Cathedral but counter-terrorism police said there was “no information to suggest that Al Swealmeen planned to detonate his device anywhere other than the Liverpool Women’s Hospital”.
Police also found a Koran and prayer mat at Al Swealmeen’s flat despite his conversion to Christianity in 2017 and baptism at Liverpool Cathedral.
In a summary of its investigation into the bombing, published on Monday, police said “the authenticity of this conversion is in doubt”.
The counter-terror investigation revealed that Al Swealmeen, who was born in Iraq, had attended the British embassy in Abu Dhabi in December 2013 to apply for a UK visa.
“He claimed that he wanted to travel to the country for a two-week holiday to watch the television programme ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ being recorded in Belfast,” said the Operation Itonia report.
He landed in the UK in April 2014 on a genuine Jordanian passport with a valid six-month visitor visa.
The report said that six days after landing at Gatwick airport, Al Swealmeen “falsely claimed to be a Syrian national, stating that he had fled the country due to the ongoing conflict” as part of a fake asylum application.
By April 2015, Al Swealmeen had “exhausted” all rights to asylum appeals and should have been deported.
But instead, according to the police investigation, he began a conversion to Christianity, attended the evangelistic Alpha course and was baptised in March 2017, changing his name by deed poll to Enzo Almeni.
The Home Office again rejected his latest asylum claim and another appeal lodged that was still under consideration at the time of his death in November 2021.
Police also uncovered serious mental health issues including an attempted overdose in 2015.
Also in 2015 he was arrested after carrying a knife in public and in trying to escape officers had tried to “jump over a motorway flyover” before being sectioned.
Following his death, counter-terrorism officers raided his home in Sutcliffe Street in Liverpool, which was shared with other asylum seekers.
Under the floorboards, officers found “two unfinished improvised firearms, 11 magazine clips in 9 mm and .45 calibre, over 90 9mm and .45 calibre dummy cartridges, a cartridge loading device and an improvised silencer”.
A rucksack contained tools “used in the manufacture of improvised firearms”.
But Al Swealmeen had also rented a flat privately in Rutland Avenue from April 2021, in the build up to the attack, which he paid for in cash each month.
“It is believed that he took the flat in order to build his explosive device without fear of detection by the authorities. He did not pay for any utilities at the premises, nor did he have any mail sent there,” said police.
On the day of the attack Al Swealmeen had ordered a taxi to collect him from Rutland Avenue, telling the firm he needed it “urgently”.
Police said there was “no official trace” of him at the address and his links were only discovered through the call to the taxi firm.
A search of the flat revealed “mixing bowls containing residues, Ziploc bags containing powder, grinding tools, scales, electrical equipment, filter papers and a variety of other components were found lying on the floor on open display”.
A small number of ball bearings were also recovered.
Al Swealmeen made online purchases using the alias “Wade McCloud” to conceal his real identity, first buying materials to manufacture improvised firearms between March and July 2020 which were delivered to Sutcliffe Street.
Police said: “From Aug 7 2020, Al Swealmeen’s attention clearly shifted to the acquisition of materials to manufacture an improvised explosive device.
“In addition to quantities of chemicals, Al Swealmeen, also purchased other items for use in the assembly of the IED including filter papers, chemistry flasks and electrical circuitry and testing equipment.
“The final online purchase made on Nov 1 2021 was for a large quantity of steel ball bearings. These were not delivered until Nov 10, just four days before the attack.”
‘Target is still unclear’
Al Swealmeen, according to Operation Itonia, “went to considerable lengths to obfuscate his activities in preparing for the attack” and contents on his mobile phone “had been mostly erased”.
In its conclusion, police said: “The intended target of the attack is still unclear. However, there is no information to suggest that Al Swealmeen planned to detonate his device anywhere other than the Liverpool Women’s Hospital.”
But detectives found no evidence that Al Swealmeen held extremist views, adding: “It seems most likely that Al Swealmeen’s grievance against the British state for failing to accept his asylum claim compounded his mental ill health which in turn fed that grievance and ultimately a combination of those factors led him to undertake the attack.”
Superintendent Andy Meeks said: “The events of Nov 14 2021 shocked the country and left many people living with lasting trauma including the taxi driver who escaped with his life, people present in the hospital and all who witnessed and were affected by this attack in Merseyside.”
He added: “This was an incredibly complex case involving a lone suspect who took considerable steps to cover his tracks and I understand the concerns this will raise around the detection of such offenders.”