A convicted criminal who walked into a London police station and said he was planning to kill Prince Harry was jailed for three years yesterday. A judge said Ashraf Islam – formerly known as Northern Irish conman Mark David Townley - posed a risk to the public although he added that his plot against the fourth-in-line to the throne was, "vague and unlikely to succeed."
That, to be honest, is putting it mildly.
The plot was only discovered when Townley, walked into a West London police station and told the police that he was planning to murder Harry - just days after the murder of servicemen Lee Rigby on a London street shocked the world
The court had previously heard that Islam, “said he'd been watching the Horse Guards Parade and planned to disarm an officer while disguised as a tourist, rather than bringing a gun into London. He spent some 10 days in Thailand researching Prince Harry and his whereabouts."
Again, the use of the word ‘researching’ might be a bit generous to the alleged royal killer. After analysing his laptop, police discovered a number of internet searches on Prince Harry’s protection team, his engagements and his general whereabouts.
A document found on Islam’s computer said: “Aim for target. No civilians to be injured. Dress code is the the biker look. Use low-calibre pistol at close range. Not to be viewed as Islamist extremist.”
Islam claimed that he had "a moral right to judge," the young royal because he objected to the campaigns being waged by the British Army, and claimed Prince Harry had, "blood on his hands".
Much as been made in the British media of the fact that Islam is a British citizen who was radicalized was in jail.
However, Philip Boucher-Hayes, one of the Irish public broadcaster RTE's anchors, had the story behind the story on his wordpress blog at the time.
Boucher-Hayes has been following the dubious career of Mark David Townley for many years, and wrote: "He was born Mark Townley, but has at various points either changed his name by deed poll or re-fashioned himself as Antonio Mandez, or Marx or others that I don’t know about, and Ashraf Islam is merely the latest in a long line of aliases. I have been following his scrapes with the law and the complaints of his victims periodically since 2007. If you are interested in what he has got up to and what kind of a person he is you can listen to a detailed interview he gave me in November 2012 here… You could listen and put those facts together with the rather underwhelming circumstances of Ashraf Islam’s arrest and arrive at the conclusion that this man is anything other than a Jihadi.
"He is a sociopathic, egomaniacal monster who has left untold financial and emotional damage in his wake. He is a narcissistic rogue who is utterly convinced of his own brilliance and superiority to those around him. He is in short a nasty piece of work but he is no Jihadi. How could he be when he is utterly incapable of surrendering his life to anything other than the pursuit of his own comfort and happiness."
Boucher-Hayes has some theories as to why Townley took the bizarre decision to announce his plan to kill Prince Harry to the police, rather than simply not do it and therefore not be arrested.
"If I had to speculate wildly as to why Townley has handed himself in to police it would be either because he has once again fallen on hard times and wants three square (meals) and a bed at the taxpayer’s expense. Or perhaps he’s trying to put himself beyond the reach of his creditors, not all of whom are always entirely innocent themselves. Linking himself indirectly to the Woolwich attack would simply appeal to Mark’s twisted sense of the theatric."
In court, Townley said he decided to confess after feeling “scared and nervous” on the morning of May 23, according to a report in The Mirror.
He said he believed hurting people was wrong but “Prince Harry had chosen his path and had blood on his hands for power and profit”.
The judge said when sentencing him, "I accept that there is nothing here that could be described as professional plans as to your expressed intentions. Your plan was vague and unlikely to succeed."
The judge said he considered a longer sentence, but said it would have been deemed "excessive".