The parents of an extremist known as ‘Jihadi Jack’ sent him money knowing he was a member of Islamic State, the Old Bailey was told on Wednesday.
John and Sally Letts are accused of wiring £1 723 (around R31 480) to the 23-year-old in Syria. The pair have gone on trial accused of three counts of funding terrorism.
Opening the case against them, Alison Morgan said: ‘It is alleged that in 2015 and 2016, the defendants sent or attempted to send money to him at a time when they knew or had reasonable cause to suspect that the money would or might be used for the purposes of terrorism.
‘They knew, or had reasonable cause to suspect, that because it was clear from the information available to them that Jack Letts had joined Islamic State and was in Syria.’
The prosecutor told the jury that Mr Letts, a 58-year-old botanist, and his wife, a 56-year-old book publisher, knew their son might be fighting with Islamic State after she paid for him to travel to Jordan in May 2014.
Despite having a return ticket he stayed abroad and began learning Arabic in Kuwait after receiving £350 from his mother. Jack started asking his parents to give money to other contacts and there were clear signs he was part of Islamic State, the court was told.
The family kept in touch by Facebook, text, email and mobile phone. Mrs Morgan added: ‘This case is about money transfers that these defendants made or tried to make to their son Jack Letts – in person over a counter, or via an electronic transfer – in circumstances where it is alleged that there was every reason for the defendants to suspect the money sent would or might be used for the purposes of terrorism.
‘The defendants are not alleged to be terrorists. They have not been in trouble with the police before. It is not suggested that the defendants supported the ideology or actions of Islamic State in any way, or that they sent the money in order to provide positive support to a terrorist group.
‘The amounts of money involved in this case are not vast. And you will appreciate immediately that this case involves parents sending money to their own son.
‘It is inevitable that you will have sympathy for them as parents of a man who took himself to Syria, against their wishes. But you will also see from the evidence the way in which this story unfolded.
‘The way in which these defendants came to commit these offences despite being warned by a wide variety of people, those who had associated with Jack Letts before he travelled: academics who the defendants sought out for advice, a charity worker who advised them as to how they might encourage their son to come back from Syria, and numerous police officers.’
Letts became radicalised after attending a Bengali mosque in Oxford in 2014. He had converted to Islam as a 16-year-old.
A concerned friend contacted his father warning that Letts was saying ‘extreme and worrying things’. At one stage his mother wrote to a friend that she was stressed because she had heard him say ‘he was going to fight in Syria’.
Mrs Morgan said: ‘By at least early 2014, Jack started to demonstrate an interest in events in Syria. On 5 March 2014 he sent an article from The Guardian newspaper to his father which was about British people fighting out in Syria.
‘It is clear that father and son engaged in a debate about the legitimacy of such action, at that stage on a theoretical basis.
‘By early 2015 both defendants were aware that Jack was in a very dangerous place. It was also clear that John Letts believed his son was with Islamic State and was being manipulated by his leaders.’
At one stage Mr Letts contacted Jack and spoke of him enjoying a ‘grand adventure’ after he left home to travel abroad at the age of 18.
However Kamal Dingle, an Oxford PhD student, emailed Mr Letts to warn ‘there is some concern regarding the company he is keeping’. Mr Letts’ tone changed dramatically when he suspected Jack was in Syria.
In September 2014 he wrote: ‘A father should never live to see his son buried. Please I beg you my son, come home or at least leave where you are and do not get involved.’
Mr Letts, who is Canadian, went on to say that his wife was ‘collapsing with fear and sadness’ and he accused Jack of misleading them both.
The parents, who are from Oxford and have a 21-year-old son called Tyler, deny they should have had reasonable cause to suspect the money would or might be used for terrorist purposes.
The trial continues.Daily Mail