Grandmother of ‘White Widow’ admitted to hospital

Elizabeth Allen said to be stressed over reports Samantha Lewthwaite involved in siege

Kenya Defence Forces soldiers take their position in the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi today. Photograph: Reuters

Kenya Defence Forces soldiers take their position in the Westgate shopping centre in Nairobi today. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 12:36

The grandmother of the “White Widow” being hunted in connection with the Kenyan shopping centre massacre has been admitted to hospital because of stress.

Elizabeth Allen, from Banbridge, Co Down, was given a panic alarm to contact security services in case Samantha Lewthwaite made contact.

Family friends say the pressure of the situation and the global notoriety of her granddaughter have taken their toll on the frail pensioner’s health and mental well-being.

Joan Baird, a veteran Ulster Unionist councillor in Banbridge who knows the family, said: “This is so distressing for everyone. Mrs Allen is 85 and she is in and out of hospital. It is just so distressing.

“Certainly, everybody in the town is shocked and distressed by the news.”

Ms Lewthwaite, a 29-year-old mother of three, is the widow of London suicide bomber Germaine Lindsay. She is suspected to have been the mastermind behind the weekend gun and bomb attack on Westgate Shopping Centre in Nairobi in which more than 60 people were killed.

Born to English soldier Andy Lewthwaite - who met and married Irish Catholic Christine Allen while serving in Northern Ireland during the 1970s - she enjoyed an unremarkable childhood on Banbridge’s Whyte Acres estate.

Lewthwaite was still at primary school when her family moved to Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire.

In 1995 her parents split.

After converting to Islam at 17, Samantha changed her name to Sherafiyah and married Lindsay, who detonated the bomb at King’s Cross Tube station, killing 26 people in July 2005. The pair had met on an Islamic chatroom.

At the time she said she was horrified by the massacre.

In 2009 Ms Lewthwaite disappeared with her three children but resurfaced two years later after travelling to Kenya on a false passport.

The Kenyan authorities issued a photograph of a white woman in a veil who they said was wanted for questioning about a bomb factory in the coastal resort of Mombassa. The woman was Ms Lewthwaite.

It is understood she has had little contact with relatives in Northern Ireland since her conversion to Islam.

PA