Profile: Samantha Lewthwaite is an average girl

Widow of July 7th terrorist attacker is suspected of being involved in Kenya attack

Kenyan policemen keep vigil near the Westgate centre in Nairobi this morning.  Kenyan authorities said its security forces were in control of the shopping mall where Islamist fighters killed at least 62 people, and police were doing a final sweep of shops after rescuing the last hostages. Photograph: Reuters

Kenyan policemen keep vigil near the Westgate centre in Nairobi this morning. Kenyan authorities said its security forces were in control of the shopping mall where Islamist fighters killed at least 62 people, and police were doing a final sweep of shops after rescuing the last hostages. Photograph: Reuters

Tue, Sep 24, 2013, 11:23

Samantha Lewthwaite was an average girl who was “empty in confidence”, a councillor who knew her has said.

Born in Banbridge, Co Down where her grandmother still lives, Ms Lewthwaite has been dubbed the “White Widow”.

She converted to Islam at the age of 15 and married Jermaine Lindsay in 2002 before he killed 26 people when he blew himself up in the July 7th terrorist attacks in London in 2005.

She lived in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, for a time.

The mother of three is known to be in east Africa and is wanted by Kenyan police over alleged links to a terrorist cell that planned to bomb the country’s coast.

In March last year, officials said she had fled to Somalia and that officers were hunting a woman who used several identities, including hers. Councillor Raj Khan, whose family knew Ms Lewthwaite’s family socially in Aylesbury, said he is surprised at speculation she is involved in the attack in Kenya due to how he remembers her.

“She was an average, British, young, ordinary girl. She had a very great personality. She didn’t have very good confidence,” he said. Mr Khan recalled a meeting with Lewthwaite and Lindsay regarding a housing issue which took place three or four weeks before the July 7th bombings, and he said she was just as he remembered her.

“Certainly when I was around her, she was the same person, lacking in confidence. “She was not strong-headed. And that’s why I find it absolutely amazing that she is supposed to be the head of an international criminal terrorist organisation,” he said.

Mr Khan said he was “perplexed” that someone he knew, who was so “empty in confidence”, was being linked to international terrorism. He said he prays that she is not involved, adding: “...and of course my worry is that if she in involved, is she under some kind of duress? Is there other factors involved?

“Or indeed, is it Samantha? I mean there are so many questions to be answered at the moment before one can make a view.” Mr Khan said her family will be “very upset” if she is involved.

“Of course like anyone else, they will be very hurt, very upset, very, very upset, but I think they too will be waiting for proof, not speculation,” he said. Mr Khan said he does not think the speculation surrounding Ms Lewthwaite will cause divisions in Aylesbury due to the community’s maturity.

“Of course if it is Samantha indeed, of course they’ll be very hurt, very upset, as indeed any human being would be, but in terms of causing any differences in our community I think the community is far more mature for that kind of thing,” he said.

Lindsay, who killed 26 people between King’s Cross and Russell Square on the Piccadilly line was a Jamaican-born Muslim convert who never made a secret of his extremist views.

He was brought up by his mother in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, where he alarmed his teachers by attempting to radicalise impressionable younger pupils. Lindsay and Ms Lewthwaite moved to Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in September 2003.

PA