The family of murder victim Mohammed Saleem said they hope to get closure as his ‘gutless’ killer was put behind bars for at least 40 years.
Pavlo Lapshyn stabbed Mr Saleem three times in the back as he left his mosque in Birmingham in April. The 25-year-old Ukranian later went on to plant three bombs outside mosques in Wolverhampton, Tipton and Walsall.
Lapshyn was jailed for life at the Old Bailey yesterday and ordered to serve a minimum of 40 years.
In court Lapshyn was brandished a ‘gutless coward’ by Mr Saleem’s family, for stabbing the 82-year-old in the back.
And in a victim impact statement read by Mr Justice Sweeney in court, Mr Saleem’s daughter Shazia Khan said the effect of her father’s violent death was ‘a rollercoaster experience where the ride will never end’.
She said: “The shock and sadness of the reality is impossible to accept, yet alone accept and move on. We can’t move forward, the murder has disabled our minds in every emotional way possible.
“Dad did not die of old age or illness, he died because he was stabbed violently in the back by a gutless coward who did not have the courage to face him before he took his life away.”
Speaking outside the Old Bailey yesterday, son-in-law Hanif Khan said of the sentence: “We’re in the hands of the judge – 40 years is still a long time and he’ll be 65 when he gets out. We’ve lost a beloved person. Hopefully now we can get some closure.”
Following yesterday’s sentencing, police revealed footage of Pavlo in a police interview and further footage of him blowing up a tree, which is believed to have been filmed in his native Ukraine.
Assistant chief constable Marcus Beale, who is responsible for counter terrorism at West Midlands Police, branded Lapshyn as cold and callous.
He added: “I don’t think he’s shown any remorse or regret for the actions he’s taken.
“He was convinced by what he was doing. He’s cold, he’s matter-of-fact, he’s calculating. Catching him was hard but not impossible – there was some fantastic work from some highly-skilled police officers.
“But the fantastic work would have counted for nothing if it wasn’t for local policing.” Lapshyn carried out his 90-day terror campaign in the hope of starting a race war and told police he targeted his victims simply because they were not white.
He stabbed Mr Saleem on April 29, then on June 21, he targeted Walsall’s Aisha Mosque in Rutter Street, Caldmore, when he planted explosive devices in a child’s lunch box at the mosque gates. Seven days later he placed a bomb on a roundabout near Wolverhampton Central Mosque.
His most serious attack was at Kanz-ul-Iman mosque in Tipton, where he packed hundreds of nails in a bomb on a railway embankment next to the mosque’s car park. Worshippers were only saved from serious harm as Friday afternoon prayers were being held an hour later than usual on the first Friday of Ramadan.
On Monday, Lapshyn admitted murdering Mr Saleem, causing an explosion on July 12 and engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between April 24 and July 18. Lapshyn spoke only to confirm his name at yesterday’s sentencing, which was translated to him through an interpreter.
The court heard that when asked why he had committed the crimes, Lapshyn simply answered ‘racism’ and then added ‘so I would like to increase racial conflict’. And the Tipton bomb was located as ‘there was little risk of white people suffering’.
Prosecutor, Mr Peter Wright QC, said police searched Lapshyn’s room they found racist and homophobic right-wing material, including a video game called Ethnic Cleansing, as well as a chilling picture of Lapshyn posing with the hunting knife that he used to kill Mr Saleem, and apparent notes he planned to use to taunt police.
Mr Wright had argued for a whole life term for Lapshyn.