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Tuesday, December 7, 2021

The day terror came to Liverpool – and why brutal blast remains shrouded in mystery

Improvised explosive devices are one of the weapons of choice for jihadists. The inquiry will focus on where Swealmeen had learned to make a bomb – possibly from the internet, possibly abroad. It is understood he had a Syrian father and an Iraqi mother, and was born in Iraq. 

What makes the picture complex for investigators is that Swealmeen had converted to Christianity in 2017, having arrived in the UK some years ago. He had spent most of his time in Liverpool and was known to the police, having been arrested in 2014 for brandishing a knife in the city centre.

The incident, which came after his asylum claim was rejected, resulted in his being detained for several months under the Mental Health Act, according to the Daily Mail.

Swealmeen had also taken the name Enzo Almeni while living in the UK – choosing Enzo in deference to Enzo Ferrari, the founder of the famous sports car brand. Swealmeen converted to Christianity in March 2017 at Liverpool’s Anglican cathedral, reinforcing the theory he may have been targeting the Remembrance Sunday service. Liverpool’s then bishop, the Right Reverend Cyril Ashton, conducted the confirmation ceremony. On Monday, the bishop said he could not recall the young man pictured at his side.

The same year, under his Westernised name of Enzo Almeni, he posted photographs of the area, including the cathedral. He even declared a takeaway restaurant “soooo cheap!” He also  remarked on his first “skin fade haircut” at a hairdressing salon in nearby Aigburth.

He was said to be “very interested in art” and a keen pizza chef, the Daily Mail reported.

Swealmeen spent eight months living with Malcolm and Marian Hitchcott, committed Christians, in their home in Aigburth in 2017, prior to his conversion. 

“He first came to the cathedral in August 2015 and wanted to convert to Christianity,” Mr Hitchcott said on Monday. 

“He took an Alpha course, which explains the Christian faith, and completed it in November of that year. 

“That enabled him to come to an informed decision and he changed from Islam to Christianity and was confirmed as a Christian by at least March 2017, just before he came to live with us. He was destitute at that time and we took him in.” 

On Facebook at the time, Mr Hitchcott posted: “What we had no idea of then was that within three days Enzo would be living with us. He stayed for a period of months. He was a real blessing to us at our times of worship and teaching around the dining room table at 9.30pm each evening.”

Detonator went off, but main charge did not

At about 10.50am, the taxi – driven by David Perry – picked up Swealmeen from a semi-detached Victorian house in Rutland Avenue, a tree-lined street off Sefton Park, where many of the large properties have been subdivided into bedsits and flats. Swealmeen had “recently rented” the address and is believed to have used it as his factory to make his bomb.

He was previously living at a taxpayer-funded hostel for asylum seekers, run by private contractors Serco, the Daily Mail reported on Monday night.

Swealmeen had called the cab firm and asked to be taken to Liverpool Women’s Hospital, a 10-minute drive away. Swealmeen clambered into the taxi, his bomb carried in a bag, and began the short journey to his death.

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