You simply can’t vet people if they hide their true beliefs and intentions…
Mr and Mrs Jihadi: How childhood sweethearts seemed the perfect neighbours… but behind their net curtains plotted a massacre
- Ummariyat Mirza, 21, was plotting a terrorist attack using a hunting knife
- His wife Madhiha Taheer, 21, paid for £121 weapon and a doll to practice on
- Pair’s fantasy was wedding day killing spree and competed to be most radical
The young couple who moved into St Agatha’s Road in Birmingham seemed as ordinary as the net curtains hanging in the windows of their modest terrace or the red Ford Fiesta parked outside.
Each morning, they would leave the house together in the Fiesta. He was always dressed in a suit and would drop off his wife at a nearby children’s nursery, where she was an administrator, before continuing the short journey to the family-run accountancy firm where he had been employed since leaving college.
Everyone agreed that newlyweds Ummariyat Mirza and heavily pregnant Madihah Taheer were a welcome addition to the street popular with young families. Neighbours remember the young woman beaming with pride when other mums commented on her baby bump.
Birmingham’s links with Islamic militancy and terrorism in recent years have overshadowed the positive contribution made by the Muslim community to Britain’s second city.
But these childhood sweethearts, both 20 when they married in 2016, never aroused suspicion. They weren’t especially religious; neither of them prayed at the local mosque — which is not to suggest there would have been anything wrong in this. More that, to the outside world at least, they appeared to have fully embraced a very ordinary, British way of life.
The only outward trappings of their Pakistani heritage was Taheer’s headscarf — never a burka — which left her face uncovered. Indeed, while at school she didn’t even wear a headscarf. Contemporaries recall how she and a friend once performed a rendition of Rihanna’s hit song Umbrella. Yet their seemingly normal Brummie life was a lie; a sham even before they were joined together in matrimony in an Islamic ceremony which had no basis in British law.
British? The reality was that the couple hated this country and everything it stood for; even though both their families, originally from Pakistan, brought up nine children between them here and Taheer herself benefited from one of the best educations Birmingham could offer.
The truth, despite the exterior, was that this husband and wife were more ‘Mr and Mrs Jihadi’ than any sort of besotted lovers.