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A SENIOR spy has faced a barrage of questions about why MI5 failed to stop the London Bridge attack, which killed eight people.
Amid tight security at the Old Bailey, a top spook known only as “Witness L” gave evidence from behind a screen at an inquest into their deaths today.
The coroner’s counsel, Jonathan Hough QC, demanded to know why MI5 had failed to stop the main attacker Khuram Butt before he led a frenzied van and knife attack in 2017.
The fanatic had featured in Channel 4 documentary The Jihadis Next Door 18 months before going on the rampage.
Witness L confirmed that MI5 reviewed that programme after it aired, but did not try to access unbroadcast footage which would have revealed more about Mr Butt’s extremism.
The coroner’s counsel asked: “Could you have had or obtained access to that?”
Witness L replied: “ I guess it’s possible.”
Mr Hough persisted: “Are you able to give any explanation why that wasn’t sought in this case, because as we know, it did provide rather more views of him?”
Witness L answered: “I would imagine that Butt’s appearance in the programme did nothing more than reinforce what we already knew about Butt.”
Although Mr Butt was on MI5’s radar, the spooks suspended their investigations of him on two occasions.
The spy agency also decided not to share intelligence with police that Mr Butt was working at a gym owned by another known extremist.
As well as working at the gym, the inquest heard that Mr Butt was able to obtain a job at a school despite MI5 knowing he was dangerous.
Mr Hough asked Witness L how “an extremist with a criminal record had access to children” and put it to him that MI5’s “attempt to protect those children was somewhat lacking in rigour.”
Witness L said MI5 did not realise Mr Butt was working at a particular school less than a mile from his home, because the college did not appear on a Google search conducted by the intelligence agency.
Mr Hough said “anyone following him would have found him in half an hour.”
Xavier Thomas, 45, Christine Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were all killed in the attack.
The inquest continues.
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