The man arrested after a van rammed pedestrians near a mosque in north London, killing one person and wounding several others, had expressed antagonism toward Muslims in the days before the attack early Monday, according to British media.
Police are holding Darren Osborne, 47, of Cardiff, Wales, on suspicion of attempted murder and terrorism offences.
According to the reports, some of his neighbours in Pentwyn, in east Cardiff, described the father of four as “aggressive” and “shouty.” However, his neighbour, Khadijeh Sherizi, herself a Muslim, said he was “so normal” and “seemed polite and pleasant to me.”
Both the Guardian and the Telegraph quote neighbours as saying Osborne was verbally abusive toward Sherizi’s 12-year-old son on Saturday, calling him an “inbred.” The following day, Osborne repeated the insult to the boy’s 10-year-old sister.
Both newspapers report that Osborne was thrown out of a local pub on Saturday night for “cursing Muslims.” The Guardian quoted a patron of the pub as saying he threatened to “do some damage.”
Eleven people were wounded shortly after midnight on Monday after the van hit a group of people who had gathered to help an elderly man who had collapsed outside the Muslim Welfare House.
The crowd had been at the nearby Finsbury Park Mosque for Ramadan services.
According to witnesses, the driver left the vehicle, laughed and shouted, “I’m going to kill all Muslims. I did my bit.”
An imam from the Muslim Welfare House who stepped in to protect the driver from the angry crowd after the incident was hailed as a hero in British newspapers on Tuesday.
“We found that a group of people quickly started to collect around him … and some tried to hit him either with kicks or punches,” Mohammed Mahmoud told reporters. “By God’s grace we managed to surround him and to protect him from any harm.
“In a statement given to local media on behalf of Osborne’s family, his nephew Ellis Osborne said: “We are massively shocked; it’s unbelievable, it still hasn’t really sunk in.
It’s ‘sheer madness,’ says suspect’s family
“We are devastated for the families, our hearts go out to the people who have been injured. It’s madness. It is obviously sheer madness,” the family’s statement said.
Prime Minister Theresa May described what happened as a “sickening attempt to destroy freedoms” in the U.K.
British health authorities say seven of the people who were struck remain in hospital. Three of the injured are in critical care.
One man died at the scene, although he was receiving first aid at the time and it wasn’t clear if he died as a result of the attack or from something else.
The incident at Finsbury Park was the fourth attack on groups of civilians in the U.K. in since March and the third to involve a vehicle deliberately driven at pedestrians. The previous attacks had been blamed on supporters of Islamist extremism.