Ukrainian murdered elderly man, planted mosque bombs in Britain

LONDON (Reuters) - A self-confessed racist Ukrainian student studying in Britain pleaded guilty on Monday to murdering an elderly Muslim man and planting explosive devices outside mosques in central England as part of a one-man hate campaign.

Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, arrived in Britain in April to study and work in Birmingham, but within days he stabbed to death 82-year-old Mr Mohammed Saleem as he walked home from a mosque.

Weeks later he planted bombs which exploded near mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton in central England. No one was injured in the blasts, but the police said chemicals and bomb-making equipment were found at his home following his arrest in July, suggesting further attacks would have followed.

"He wanted to stir up racial tension, racial hatred," said Detective Superintendent Shaun Edwards of the West Midlands police.

"He said he murdered (Saleem) because he wasn't white."

Attacks on British Muslims and Islamic institutions surged following the murder of a British soldier on the street in Woolwich, south London, in May, which prompted demonstrations organised by extreme-right and anti-Islamic groups.

The police said they found far-right material on Lapshyn's laptop and evidence that he had searched online for chemical suppliers in Birmingham.

In Britain on a one-year visa after winning a work placement competition with a manufacturing company, Lapshyn stabbed Mr Saleem three times in the back, in an attack police called opportunistic.

A few weeks later, a nail bomb attack at a mosque in Walsall sent debris flying across a car park.

The attack occurred on Friday, the weekly Muslim prayer day, just an hour after the funeral of soldier Lee Rigby, but few worshippers were about as the service had been put back by an hour.

The police also said they had found mobile phones adapted for use as triggers, chemicals and a coffee grinder used as part of the bomb-making device during their searches.

Described as a loner, Lapshyn was largely unknown to the police, who tracked him down by trawling CCTV footage, telecoms and forensic evidence.

He will be sentenced at the Old Bailey court on Friday.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.