Sunday, July 26, 2015

Family man 'tried to buy enough deadly ricin powder on the Dark Web to kill 1,400 people and then set out to find a pet to test it on'

  • Mohammed Ali, 31, had the ricin sent to him in toy car batteries, court told
  • Old Bailey heard Ali wrote notes on computer including ‘get pet to murder’
  • But his U.S. dealer was actually undercover FBI agent posing as supplier  
  • Ali denies attempting to posses a chemical weapon and the trial continues
A father-of-two tried to buy enough deadly poison on the Dark Web to kill 1,400 people then set about finding a rabbit, chinchilla or other 'pocket-sized pet' to test it on, a court has heard. 

Mohammed Ahmer Ali, 31, used the codename 'weirdos 0000' to order 500mg of the chemical weapon through the internet black market equivalent of Amazon. 

The computer programmer allegedly paid $500 for five vials of the poison to be shipped to his home in Liverpool disguised as 'special batteries' for a toy car.

He then made a list of actions on his computer, which included 'paid ricin guy' and 'get pet to murder' before searching Google for 'pocket-sized pets', 'animal rescue centre', and 'adopt an unwanted bunny from a rescue centre', the jury was told.

He also searched: 'what poison kills you quick, is foolproof, easily found/made, easily concealed and hard to detect post mortem'.

But, unbeknown to Ali, the seller was actually an undercover agent known as Peter who was working for the FBI. The powder eventually sent to his home was also harmless.

The Old Bailey heard how Ali first approached Dark Mart in January with a private message: 'Hi, would you be able to make me some ricin and send it to the UK?'

In a series of encrypted chats they discussed details including the price of a lethal dose, discounts for bulk orders and repeat purchases as well as ricin's 'shelf life', jurors were told.

At one point Ali asked: 'How do I test this ricin?' and received the instruction: 'You must test it on a rodent.'

By this time, Peter had already alerted British authorities who allowed the negotiations to run their course, jurors were told.

On February 10, Ali took delivery of a toy car with 'special batteries' at the home he shared with his wife and two young sons

Instead of ricin, the five concealed packets contained a harmless powder and the toy was covered in a 'unique marker' which sticks to skin on contact and can be seen under a UV light, the court heard.

When police swooped to arrest Ali they seized the opened package from his home office as well as his computer and mobile phone. 

Prosecutor Sally Howes QC told jurors that ricin was 'the poisoner's perfect poison' because its symptoms are non-specific and it does not show up in a post-mortem examination.

A 100mg dose is enough to kill up to 280 people within three to five days, while 500mg can kill between 700 and 1,400, she said.

Symptoms vary according to exposure. If inhaled they include respiratory distress, cough, fever, nausea, heavy sweating and fluid on the lungs. Low blood pressure and respiratory failure ultimately leads to death.

Ingested ricin results in severe vomiting, diarrhoea and dehydration and leads to multiple organ failure of liver, spleen and kidneys.

Ms Howes told the jury that police found no evidence to suggest Ali had any association with terrorist activities or organisations.

She said: 'Despite the subject matter of this case, the police have found no evidence to suggest that this defendant has any association with terrorist activities or terrorist organisations.'  

Ali, who was born in Bolton and has lived all his life in the North West of England, denies the charge of attempting to possess a chemical weapon between January 10 and February 12.

Ms Howes said he is likely to argue that he sought to buy ricin on the Dark Web 'out of curiosity' and his attempt to possess it was for 'peaceful purposes' and not to use it as a chemical weapon.

She said his defence team is likely to rely on a psychological assessment that Ali has traits associated with Asperger's syndrome to explain what he did.

The Old Bailey trial is expected to go on for two weeks.

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