LONDON—Darren Osborne, a 47-year-old white British father of four, is the man police suspect of driving a van into a crowd of Muslims as they returned home from celebrating Ramadan at their local mosque in North London just after midnight on Monday.
The suspected terrorist moved to Wales after growing up in the faded seaside town of Weston-super-Mare, which most recently garnered international attention when Banksy commemorated the area’s fall from grace with his dystopian theme park Dismaland.
As Osborne’s image was beamed around the world, one of those most shocked and appalled was his own mother.
“I’m not going to defend him,” she told British broadcaster ITV. “It’s a terrible, terrible shock and it’s not just robbing the bank or something—it’s an atrocity.”
“At this moment in time I can’t cope with it, I can’t. Oh, God. How can... You just can’t imagine.”
Cell phone footage taken in the aftermath of the terror attack in Finsbury Park showed Osborne blowing a kiss and waving to the crowd of survivors from the back of a police van. He had been wrestled to the ground and subdued by a number of Muslim men, who had just seen their fellow faithful taken out by the vehicle.
The attack left one man dead and another nine people injured and taken to hospitals for treatment.
One of Osborne’s neighbors in the suburbs of Cardiff in South Wales suggested that he had not been a popular figure. “He had lived on the estate for a few years. He’s always been a complete cunt but this is really surprising,” he told the Metro newspaper.
Khadijh Sherazi, who described herself as a white Muslim, said she was also a neighbor. Her 12-year-old son, Nadeem, said Osborne had made an offensive comment to him for the first time at the weekend. “I was on my bike and he just came up to me and said ‘in-bred.’ It was just a normal voice. He just said it,” he recalled.
Another associate claimed on social media that they “always knew he was mad.”
Osborne lived in a terraced house worth around $200,000 in Glyn Rhosyn, Pentwyn with his partner and four children.
“Someone called me and said it was him and I said ‘It can’t be.’ Then I saw the picture on the news and said ‘Shit! It’s him!’” said Dave Ashford, 52.
Osborne was born in Singapore in 1969 before moving to Weston-super-Mare in Somerset, in the west of England. His mother and family still live there, and he was well known in the town.
A woman from Weston-super-Mare confirmed his identity to The Daily Mirror, which was the first newspaper to name the suspected attacker. “We are all devastated honestly. It's a small place,” she said. “When I heard what happened it absolutely made me feel ill.”
A friend who said he went to Broadoak Mathematics and Computing College with Osborne claimed to have known him for more than 30 years. "I went to school with him, I've known him for 35 years, it's 100% him,” he told the Mirror. “He lives in Wales, he has four kids and a missus.”
Ben Wallace, Britain’s security minister, said Osborne was not one of the tens of thousands of known extremists on the watch lists of the security services.
“What I can say on this case is this individual, so far as we know at the moment, was not known to us, but we are aware of a rise in the far right.”
Witnesses at the scene of the attack said the attacker had lurched towards them with fists flailing after getting out the white van that he rented in South Wales and drove 150 miles to the Muslim Welfare House in Finsbury Park.
“He was screaming, ‘I’m going to kill all Muslims,’" said Saleh Alamoudi, who helped to subdue the man.
Toufik Kacimi, chief executive of the Muslim Welfare House, said the imam at the mosque where the attack took place helped to ensure that Osborne was protected from an increasingly angry crowd.
Video footage from the aftermath of the attack, showed the imam, Mohammed Mahmoud, warning locals to stand back while police officers bundled the suspect into their van. “No one touch him—no one! No one!” he yelled.
Mahmoud told reporters on Monday that he and some worshippers from the mosque prevented the attacker from escaping while ensuring that he would face the courts, not street justice.
“A group of people quickly started to collect around the assailant. And some tried to hit him, either kicks or punches. By God’s grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm. We stopped all forms of attack and abuse towards him that were coming from every angle,” he said.
“A police van drove past so we flagged them down and we told them the situation. There’s a man, he’s restrained. He mowed down a group of people and there’s a mob attempting to hurt him. If you don’t take him, God forbid he might be seriously hurt.”