Oct 25 2013
A racist student who murdered a Muslim pensioner within five days of entering the UK and went on to plant three bombs near mosques has been jailed for life with a minimum term of 40 years.
Ukrainian student Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, told police he murdered frail Mohammed Saleem, 82, because he hated "non-whites".
Pensioner and father-of-seven Mr Saleem, who walked with a stick, was stabbed three times yards from his house as he walked home alone after worship on April 29.
Lapshyn told police that he had wanted to stab him in the heart. While he was at large for the killing, he planted three bombs near mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton in the West Midlands.
The third device, that exploded near the Kanzul Iman mosque in Tipton, was stuffed with shrapnel.
It was only because Lapshyn got the wrong time for Friday prayers that the blast did not cause mass injuries.
Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Sweeney told him: "You clearly hold extremist right wing, white supremacist views and you were motivated to commit the offences by religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite racial conflict and cause Muslims to leave the area where you were living.
"Such views, hatred and motivations have no place whatsoever in our multi-faith and multi-cultural society."
Mr Saleem's daugher Shazia Khan was among relatives who watched from the public gallery as sentence was passed.
Mr Justice Sweeney read her victim impact statement that 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."
She said that her mother cannot accept the death of her husband of more than 50 years, and is haunted by thoughts that she could have saved him.
"Our mother weeps to this day. She was minutes away from him. She could have saved him and she will always blame herself for this.
"She will not accept that the circumstances were out of anyone's control."
Prosecutor Peter Wright QC told the court that PhD student Lapshyn had come to the UK as part of software firm Delcam's sponsorship programme with the National Metallurgy Academy in Ukraine. The scheme is now under review following his horrifying crimes.
When police searched his room at Delcam they found a camera containing 455 photos and 98 videos featuring bomb-making and guns, including clips of Lapshyn testing homemade explosive devices in his native Ukraine.
They also 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 anonymous notes that he planned to use to taunt the police.
One featured a photograph of the hunting knife, next to which Lapshyn had written "Mohammed Saleem was killed by".
He referred to a police reward for information, saying "£10,000 small price, maybe £1 million", followed by a smiley face, and the phrase "white power".
Other documents had been drawn up to taunt police about his bombing campaign, again featuring smiley faces.
The Old Bailey was told that the extremist began researching potential sites in Birmingham to buy bomb parts as early as March 2012, before he was even granted a placed on Delcam's programme.
He made the devices mainly with parts that he bought via the internet, and while all three went off, the nail bomb was classed by experts as "extremely dangerous" and having the potential to cause serious injuries and death.
Police said he had materials to make another three bombs.
He openly told officers that he was motivated by racism, saying that he wanted to increase racial tensions and drive Muslims out of the area.
Mr Wright told the court that on the day of Mr Saleem's murder: "He wandered around looking for a victim."
Lapshyn told police that he had wanted to stab the pensioner in the heart, and said: "I have racial motivation and racial hatred."
Mr Wright had argued for a whole life term for Lapshyn, saying that the seriousness of his crimes was "exceptionally high".
But defending, Richard Atkins QC said: "We accept that his crimes are grave, but we submit that they are not so grave that they merit what in this day and age would amount to a sentence of 60 years or more with no possibility of ever being released."
He added: "The appropriate penalty we submit is life with a substantial minimum term."
Inmates serving whole life terms can only be released if they are terminally ill or seriously incapacitated, or at the discretion of the secretary of state, the court heard.
Mr Atkins told the court that Lapshyn is being kept in segregation and that the only person he speaks to regularly is his father.
The judge said that he was not convinced that Lapshyn had killed to further any wider cause, and so had decided not to pass a whole life tariff.
He said: "I'm not sure that you murdered Mr Saleem to further a cause as such. Rather it seems to me that you were acting alone and motivated by your own extreme and appalling prejudices. Albeit that there are other wholly misguided organisations and individuals who share your views."