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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 April, 2005, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Mystery still surrounds killer
Kamel Bourgass must spend at least 20 years in jail
An Algerian man has been convicted of plotting to spread ricin and other poisons. The BBC News website looks at what is known about Kamel Bourgass.

Kamel Bourgass remains something of a mystery man despite many months of probing by police and MI5, and his own testimony in court.

Police are not even sure if Bourgass is his real name, nor is his birthdate or place of birth certain.

MI5 claimed he was a "sleeper", an al-Qaeda operative who was to be activated at the right time to carry out an outrage on Britain's streets.

Police believe he spent time in Afghanistan and got training on how to make and use poisons.

Bourgass, who also used the alias Nadir Habra, entered Britain in the back of a lorry through the port of Dover in January 2000.

In the meantime he was mired in the asylum system.

After being refused asylum he was sent a notice of appeal in September 2001, but failed to attend the hearing two months later.

His appeal was dismissed in his absence in December 2001, making him liable for arrest and removal from the UK.

Went to ground

But more than a year later he was still in Britain, having gone to ground.

On 14 January 2003 Bourgass was at a friend's flat in Crumpsall, Manchester, when Special Branch officers burst in.

They were actually searching for another man and did not recognise Bourgass even though Special Branch were looking for him under the name Nadir Habra.

Finsbury Park mosque
Bourgass stayed for a time at the Finsbury Park mosque

Bourgass, frantic to get away, stabbed to death Detective Constable Stephen Oake but was overpowered and taken into custody.

He continued to proclaim his innocence and claimed at his trial that he had killed DC Oake out of fear.

After he was convicted of the murder Bourgass faced another trial in connection with the ricin conspiracy.

Before that trial began there was significant legal argument and the judge ruled as inadmissible evidence which had derived from Mohamed Meguerba's interrogations by the security services in Algeria.

'Trained in Afghanistan'

The following were admissions made by Meguerba during these interviews:

  • He claimed he and Bourgass spent time training in Afghanistan.

  • They later came to Britain and agreed a joint enterprise to make toxic poisons and smear them on car door handles and houses on the Holloway Road area of north London.

  • The leaders of the cell were two other al-Qaeda figures, neither of whom can be named for legal reasons.

  • Towards the end of the summer of 2002 Meguerba and Bourgass were training in preparing poisons from documents emanating from Afghanistan.

  • Both had learned about chemistry in Afghanistan.

  • Meguerba also said he had been in Afghanistan for a year, leaving just before 9/11 and he said he had met Osama bin Laden.

  • Meguerba also said Bourgass had invited him to dinner where he had produced cherries, plums and apples and Bourgass had given him a cup in which to put the stones.

  • Bourgass said the stones were needed to make poison.

  • Bourgass had said he was making poison and showed him a Nivea pot containing castor oil poison.

  • Meguerba said he made photocopies of the poison recipe pages but he said he was not involved in any poison plot.

    Nigel Sweeney, QC, prosecuting said Meguerba faces charges in Algeria which include crimes committed in Britain as well as crimes committed in his home country.

    Very different picture

    But when Bourgass gave evidence he gave a very innocent picture of himself.

    Questioned by his own lawyer, Michel Massih, he said he had been a conscripted police officer for a year back in Algeria and he said he came to Britain to find work.

    He said he was sent to Manchester by the Home Office after applying for asylum.

    But he said he felt lonely there because there were not many Arabs and he moved to London, where he stayed for a while at the mosque in Finsbury Park.

    He said he only met Meguerba in the spring of 2002, when he began buying and selling clothes.

    Bourgass said they discussed the situation back in Algeria, particularly the massacres of innocent people which were often blamed on Islamic groups.

    Poison recipes

    Mr Massih then asked him about the poison recipes and why he had written them.

    Bourgass said: "I wrote it in accordance with a request by this man Meguerba."

    Mr Massih asked: "How did he tell you about writing the recipes?"

    Bourgass replied: "When after the relationship had developed and he told me about the incidents that had occurred in his village.

    Mohamed Meguerba
    He (Meguerba) told me that people in Algeria, these groups, when they made their raids on these villages they took their supplies and food from these people and he wanted to put it in food, that's what he told me
    Kamel Bourgass
    "He told me he wanted to help people in his village and he told me he wanted to go to Algeria to help people in his village. He asked me if I could help him out and write for him these copies that were found with me."

    Mr Massih asked: "When you copied these recipes did you realise these were recipe to make poisons?"

    He replied: "Yes, he told me before he asked me to write them. He told me he wanted to write recipes which contained products of poisons and explosives."

    'What was the purpose?'

    Mr Massih asked: "Did you discuss the purpose of the recipes to have been used?"

    Bourgass replied: "He told me he wanted to help people in the village against these raids, attacks carried out by these terrorist groups. He wanted to go to Algeria to go to the village and if there was to be an attack by these groups he would use these things against them as self-defence according to him...

    "He told me that people in Algeria, these groups, when they made their raids on these villages they took their supplies and food from these people and he wanted to put it in food, that's what he told me."

    The jury clearly did not accept Bourgass's story, preferring to believe that he was a dedicated terrorist out to target Britain.


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