LONDON : A Ukrainian student with a hatred of “non-whites” on Monday admitted murdering a Muslim grandfather and planting bombs near three British mosques. Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, pleaded guilty in court to stabbing 82-year-old Mohammed Saleem to death as he walked home from a mosque in the central English city of Birmingham in April.
Lapshyn, a postgraduate student from the eastern Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk, also admitted plotting to cause explosions at mosques in three towns in central England. No one was injured in the blasts, which took place in the towns of Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton in June and July.
Lapshyn, who said he was motivated by racial hatred, is due to be sentenced on Friday. Interior minister Theresa May said his actions had “robbed a family of a loved one and attempted to cause fear and division within our communities”. Police said they found more bomb-making equipment in the room Lapshyn was staying in as he carried out a work placement at a software firm in Birmingham.
“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,” said Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit.
“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.”
He added that Lapshyn had told police he acted alone rather than as part of a wider cell, and “was keen to take credit for masterminding and carrying out the attacks”.
The student came across as “calm, calculated and committed” during police interviews, Edwards said. British police are now in Ukraine to try to understand more about his background.
Lapshyn had only been in Britain for a few days when he murdered father-of-seven Saleem, a well-respected member of the local Muslim community.
After he was arrested in July, he told police: “I would like to increase racial conflict.”
Saleem’s daughter Shazia Khan said her father was “a lovely, kind man” who was targeted simply because of his faith.
“He did not do anything to deserve this horrific killing other than being a Muslim,” she told reporters outside London’s Old Bailey court.
The mosque bombings took place at a time of high tension in Britain, following the brutal hacking to death of a soldier on a London street in May by attackers who said they were avenging the killing of Muslims by British troops in Afghanistan.
Several mosques were attacked by arsonists and vandals in the wake of the murder of soldier Lee Rigby.
Two Muslim converts are due to stand trial for his murder next month.