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Student admits murder of man, 82
A Ukrainian student with a hatred of "non-whites" has admitted murdering an 82-year-old man and plotting to cause explosions near mosques.
Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, a postgraduate student from Dnipropetrovsk, in Ukraine, appeared at the Old Bailey and pleaded guilty to murdering Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from a mosque in Birmingham in April.
He also admitted causing an explosion on July 12 near the Kanzal Iman mosque in Tipton, and engaging in conduct in preparation of terrorist acts between April 24 and July 18 this year.
This included planting bombs near mosques in Walsall and Wolverhampton, researching locations to plant bombs and buying chemicals on the internet to make explosives.
Lapshyn will be sentenced on Friday.
The Ukrainian was in the UK on a sponsored work placement at a software firm in the Small Heath area of Birmingham when he was arrested on suspicion of Mr Saleem's murder nearby on July 20.
The pensioner and father of seven was stabbed three times yards from his house as he walked home alone after worship, on April 29, prompting an outpouring of grief from the community.
While Lapshyn remained at large, he plotted the planting of devices near three mosques as part of a campaign he said was motivated by racial hatred.
No one was injured by any of the explosions.
Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards, from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit, said: "We found part-made devices in Lapshyn's room plus chemicals and bomb-making equipment, so it is clear he planned to place further devices with the intention of killing or maiming innocent members of the public.
"All three of the devices he detonated were powerful but his final attack in Tipton was the first to feature shrapnel and nails. He placed this near the mosque's car park with the intention of hitting worshippers as they arrived for prayers. Thankfully the service had been put back an hour so the mosque was largely deserted when the bomb went off.
"In interview Lapshyn stressed he was acting alone, not part of a wider cell or influenced by any group, and was keen to take credit for masterminding and carrying out the attacks. Our work is ongoing with Ukrainian authorities to understand more about his background and we have officers in Ukraine probing his history."
Speaking outside the court, Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale described Lapshyn as "dangerous and evil", but said he was not part of a wider extremist group.
He said: "I hope they (Mr Saleem's family) get some solace from it. You must feel for them when they lose their dad in such circumstances.
"But hopefully it will be one small step in coming to terms with what has been an awful, awful time."
He added: "He (Lapshyn) was extremely dangerous. It is of great relief that he is not free to walk the streets any further.
"He's a dangerous, evil and completely ill-informed man. There is no justification for the crimes he committed or the intent that he has.
"He was operating alone, he was a lone actor."
Lapshyn had only been in the country for a few days when he struck.
"It's extremely difficult when something has no footprint at all," Mr Beale said.
"This case was finally cracked because of the quality of evidence-gathering done around the CCTV following the first bomb attack. Relentless work to find every camera and to track him."
He said police also used local knowledge to find Lapshyn.
Asked to respond to criticism from the Muslim community that the case did not get treated with the significance it might have done, Mr Beale said: "I think perhaps both the media and ourselves should reflect a little bit upon that."
Mr Beale said: "I'm hugely pleased that Pavlo Lapshyn has pleaded guilty today to some really serious offences.
"I'm most pleased for Mohammed Saleem's family who will have had a really difficult period over the last few months following his brutal and premature death. It was a particularly nasty case.
"His motivation was very much that he thought the white man was better than everybody else and he was attacking for that reason. We know he killed a perfectly innocent man walking back home from prayers who had no chance to fight back at all."
Lapshyn had materials for another three explosive devices.
It was only by chance that he got the wrong time for Friday prayers when he planted a nail bomb near the Tipton mosque.
Speaking outside court, Mr Saleem's daughter Shazia Khan said: "We are very pleased with the outcome of today's hearing. It's a relief not to have to sit through a long and tedious trial and listen to horrific details of this violent crime.
"Our dad was a lovely, kind man who left prayers for the last time that night. He did not do anything to deserve this horrific killing other than being a Muslim.
"He was targeted simply because of his faith. His beard and his clothing represented who he was. Pavlo chose to kill him that night with only that intention in mind.
"Hopefully he will get the sentence that he deserves and he will never be able to commit crimes like this again.
"It's such a pity that he has lost his whole life for some personal hatred or opinion that he has of a particular faith. To kill someone because of what they look like and what they believe in is unforgivable."
She said that when she saw Lapshyn in court, she pitied him.
"We just looked at him and we felt pity. He looked pathetic. He looked frightened and stressed."
Her husband Hanif Khan said: "How can you get closure? I thought today we would get that, but you can't. It opens up wounds. How can you weigh up a sentence to a life? What does it mean?"
He added: "I tried to weigh up what this individual has done, the most selfish act. It's beyond comprehension."
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "This is a satisfying outcome to a highly distressing case where Pavlo Lapshyn's hatred has robbed a family of a loved one and attempted to cause fear and division within our communities.
"I pay tribute to the work of West Midlands Police in bringing the perpetrator to justice and commend the resilience of communities across the West Midlands who showed such courage in the face of these cowardly attacks."