The threat posed by the London Bridge attack leader was downgraded by MI5 just weeks earlier, a senior spy revealed today.
Its reassessment of Khuram Butt’s danger to UK security – from “likely” to “maybe” – was made in late spring 2017, an inquest on the eight victims heard.
The officer, identified only as Witness L, told how the move happened as an inquiry into Butt was suspended between March and May 2017.
The pause came amid an “unprecedented level of threat and therefore pressure on our resources”, he said – adding that in his 28-year MI5 career, “I can’t recall a time as alarming as this”.
Eight people were killed and 48 injured in the atrocity on June 3, 2017.
Police shot dead Butt, 27, and two fellow jihadis within 10 minutes.
Inquest counsel Jonathan Hough QC asked Witness L if the public ought to be worried over the inquiry suspension. The spy, shielded in court from public view, said: “I think it reflects the available resource level.
“This and other similarly concerning investigations had to be suspended, as even more con-cerning ones were above these.”
The officer – head of policy, strategy and capability in MI5’s international counter-terrorism arm – said an internal review found that “the inquiry into Butt was well and effectively run”.
It also reported that the decisions to suspend the inquiry were “logical in the circumstances”.
At the time, Butt was known to have said he wanted a UK attack. But investigators failed to identify a school in Ilford, East London, where he and a fellow jihadi taught and which was run by an extremist’s wife.
Witness L accepted that a potential investigative opportunity had been lost. The Old Bailey hearing continues.