'Jihadi John' neighbours shocked at boy-next-door turned 'monster'

A postman delivers mail to the house where Emwazi's family used to live.
A postman delivers mail to the house where Emwazi's family used to live.REUTERS

LONDON (AFP) - Neighbours of Mohammed Emwazi, the Londoner targeted in an air strike in Syria, expressed disbelief on Friday over the quiet young man's transformation into a ruthless Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militant.

The last known address for the militant and his family before he left for Syria in 2013 is an unassuming, modern, red-brick block of 12 apartments in North Kensington, a residential area of west London.

"If it's really him (who's) been executing people with no mercy, no humanity, he deserves it, but really, he should have been captured," said a 47-year-old man who gave his name as James.

"He might have some information that we need for the safety of the country," he said, adding: "I hope they will get all of these terrorists."

An elderly male neighbour, who declined to give his name, voiced surprise at Friday's news about Emwazi.

"When they were there, I saw them coming in and out but I don't know when they moved out. I didn't know them," he said.

"I was shocked to hear the news. But what can you do? That's life."

 
 
 
 

The Emwazis' old four-bedroom flat is now occupied by foreign students and young people, who still occasionally receive water bills addressed to them.

Some of the neighbours still remember seeing him around - and cannot comprehend how he became "Jihadi John".

"Why did he do that? They say he's a very intelligent boy. How did he turn evil?" James said.

"I can't believe someone comes to western Europe, where you don't see guns and stabbing people - how did he turn into a monster?"

James suggested Emwazi was not always prone to violence, having witnessed him standing by as his brother was involved in a fight outside.

"He was strange, he stood about and allowed them to fight," said James, who would sometimes see Emwazi out on a bicycle wearing traditional Islamic dress.

"I said: 'Why did you allow your brother to get beaten? Why didn't you do something?' He said to me, 'Not bothered'. He stood about just watching."