Police missed seven chances to stop killer Afghan asylum seeker: Authorities were repeatedly warned that double murderer who lied he was 14 to get into UK was carrying a knife before he stabbed aspiring marine to death
- Police had up to seven warnings over knife-carrying Afghan asylum seeker
- The man was on the run for murder charges before he stabbed a marine to death
Police were warned up to seven times that a violent Afghan asylum seeker was carrying a knife before he went on to kill again on British soil, it has emerged.
The Home Office also failed to check the fingerprints of fugitive Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai against police databases when he entered the UK – because he falsely claimed to be a child.
Abdulrahimzai was on the run from murder charges in Serbia when he arrived in Britain and was later convicted in his absence of gunning down two people with a Kalashnikov assault rifle.
Despite repeated warnings to UK police about Abdulrahimzai’s obsession with knives, he went on to fatally stab aspiring Royal Marine Tom Roberts in Bournemouth last year.
Police released this mugshot of Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, 21, after his conviction for murder
Abdulrahimzai murdered Thomas Roberts (pictured) with a ’10cm blade’ after an argument with his friend about an e-scooter outside a Subway sandwich shop
A source who knew the killer said: ‘When I saw that someone had been murdered in town and an Afghan fella with a knife had been arrested, my thoughts turned immediately to Abdulrahimzai.
‘I cannot believe the police never found anything on him.’
Members of the local cricket club where Abdulrahimzai once played said they alerted Dorset Police that the Afghan, known to them as ‘Lo’, was carrying a machete two days before he murdered 21-year-old Mr Roberts. The force said no weapon was found.
Police also received up to six more further warnings about his tendency to carry a weapon while girls at the club were told to ‘stay away’ from him.
On one occasion, Abdulrahimzai – who was later estimated to be up to six years older than he claimed – was said to have sent a girl details of a failed suicide attempt after she spurned his advances.
A former friend at the cricket club, who asked not to be named, said Abdulrahimzai would sometimes arrive ‘smelling of weed and booze’, and was also spotted with a knife – much to the alarm of parents.
He said: ‘He came to a training session on the Thursday before the murder with a machete in his bag.
‘We were horrified. He was immediately banned. One of the parents refused to take him home in their car because he saw it.
‘I do not know how the police didn’t find anything. It was a machete, for Christ’s sake.’
An image of a knife held by Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai in a video posted on his TikTok page
Murderer asylum seeker Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai, seen here on bus CCTV, pretended he was a child to evade authorities
He said club officials told his foster mother, who said she also told police ‘six times before’ that she suspected he had a knife.
Short-tempered Abdulrahimzai also challenged an opposition cricketer to a fight after an argument during a match, the source said.
He said: ‘They were giving our captain a bit of stick, getting in his face, and Lo started being really aggressive and responding to it.
‘He called him out into the car park for a fight. Lo overreacted. He said: ‘I’ll f*** him up.’ We calmed him down.’
Sources confirmed Abdulrahimzai was fingerprinted when he arrived in the UK in December 2019, telling officials he was 14.
Bloodstained journey of Afghan, 21, who said he was a child
Oct 2001 Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai claimed, like many Afghan children, not to know his date of birth. But a court later determined that he was born around this time. He said he was four or five years old when his parents were killed by the Taliban in the Laghman province in the east of the country.
Oct 2015 Having been tortured by the Taliban and left for dead at the side of the road, Abdulrahimzai is smuggled out of Afghanistan through Pakistan by a man described as his ‘uncle’. He has his fingerprints taken in Serbia, and then a few weeks later in Norway. Jul 2016 Abdulrahimzai, using one of his many fake names, has his fingerprints taken in the northeastern port city of Trieste, Italy.
Feb 2017 He is convicted of two drug offences in Italy and handed a suspended sentence. Jun 2017 Abdulrahimzai is back in Serbia.
Jul 31 to Aug 1, 2018 Abdulrahimzai guns down two fellow Afghans with an assault rifle at a shed near a motorway in Dobrinci in an apparent argument about people smuggling. He flees in a taxi. He is declared a wanted man by Serbian authorities. Oct 2018 Abdulrahimzai is back in Norway. Nov 2019 He applies for asylum in Norway, but is refused.
Dec 26 2019 Weeks later, Abdulrahimzai travels as an unaccompanied passenger on a Brittany Ferries service from Cherbourg in France to Poole in Dorset. Upon arrival, he tells officials he is 14.
Jan 2, 2020 He is placed into the foster care of Nicola Marchant-Jones, an experienced foster carer in Bournemouth. Adbulrahimzai, who is initially unable to speak English, later begins attending school locally. Nov 2020 Abdulrahimzai goes on trial, in his absence, in Serbia for the double-murder. He is convicted and sentenced to 20 years in jail.
Dec 2020 Ms Marchant-Jones raises the alarm with social services, who contact police, after she spots Abdulrahimzai with a knife during a shopping trip. He is spoken to, but not arrested.
Aug 2021 Abdulrahimzai has an argument with his fostermother and leaves the home. He is later placed with another family. Mar 10, 2022 Dorset Police receive a report that he is carrying a knife. No weapon is found, however, and no arrests are made.
Mar 12, 2022 Abdulrahimzai headbutts a man during a row outside a nightclub in Bournemouth. Moments later, he gets into an argument with 24-year-old James Medway over an e-scooter. Thomas Roberts, 21, acts as ‘peacekeeper’ but is then stabbed twice by Abdulrahimzai. The incident lasts less than half a minute. The killer escapes on foot. Mr Roberts dies later in hospital.
Mar 13, 2022 Abdulrahimzai is arrested after accidentally leaving his phone at the scene. He tells officers he is 16 years old.
Jan 23 2023 Abdulrahimzai, determined by a court to be 21, is convicted of murdering Mr Roberts by jurors in Salisbury.
*WATCH: Asylum seeker headbutts reveller on night out before stabbing*
But, crucially, his records were not run through international police and asylum computer systems because, at the time, he was being treated as a minor.
The following year, fingerprint comparisons revealed his previous rejected asylum claims in Norway and Italy.
But he remained free to carry on a third asylum claim here in Britain and murdered Mr Roberts in March – 27 months after arriving in the UK.
If his full history had emerged earlier it may have affected how the Home Office treated his claim, potentially revealed he was lying about his age, and Mr Roberts’ murder could have been averted.
It is understood human rights issues played a key role in Abdulrahimzai’s case.
Removals to Afghanistan have been almost impossible when an asylum seeker claims they are in danger from the Taliban, as the killer did.
Other types of legal challenge are frequently lodged when the Home Office attempts to remove migrants who have previously claimed asylum in other countries.
However, the Home Office has refused to reveal specific details of Abdulrahimzai’s asylum claim and how it was handled.
There has also been widespread concern over asylum seekers pretending to be children in order to obtain concessions in the way their claims are processed by the UK.
It came as Home Office minister Chris Philp said X-ray checks to establish the true ages of migrants will be introduced soon.
Referring to Abdulrahimzai, the minister told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘He posed as 14 and together with immigration lawyers strung the process for years before it was discovered he was an adult.
‘It demonstrates why we need more robust, tougher age assessment methods. At the moment, age assessments are done by a social worker interviewer.
‘What we need to introduce are scientific age assessment methods used in other European countries including X-rays of bones like the wrist.
‘The immigration minister will be pretty quickly introducing those scientific physical age assessment techniques. This case is a very, very powerful illustration of why we need to do this.’
In the Commons, Conservative MP for Bournemouth East Tobias Ellwood demanded an investigation after there were ‘so many red flags missed that could have revealed what a threat to society this individual was’.
Immigration minister Robert Jenrick replied: ‘As you’ll know sentencing is yet to take place, but we will be investigating the full circumstances surrounding the case so that we can ensure we learn all the lessons.
‘One that we will certainly be taking forward is a more robust method for assessing the age of those coming into the country, taking advantage of modern scientific methods.’
Earlier this month, an independent scientific panel set up by the Home Office put forward proposals for physical examinations to assess the age of asylum seekers.
They suggested using a combination of X-rays of the wisdom teeth and the hand or wrist, plus MRI scans of the knee or collarbone. The Home Office is expected to roll out plans within months, sources said.
Abdulrahimzai was found guilty of murder by a majority verdict at Salisbury Crown Court yesterday. He will be sentenced tomorrow.
Jurors were not told during the two-week trial that Abdulrahimzai shot two people dead with an AK-47 in Serbia in summer 2018 before going on the run.
Dorset Police were approached for comment. A force spokesman previously said it was ‘not aware of any previous convictions related to Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai’.
The spokesman said: ‘Abdulrahimzai was not marked on any police intelligence systems within the UK as having convictions, nor was he marked as having convictions on the Police National Computer or Police National Database.
‘As a result, no previous convictions would have been raised with any police force within the UK.’
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