We opened our home to Liverpool terrorist – we can't believe he'd do this, say couple who helped him become a Christian

A CHRISTIAN couple who opened up their home to Poppy Day bomber Emad Jamil Al-Swealmeen have told of their disbelief after he launched his deadlyhospital blast.

Al-Swealmeen, 32, blew himself up in a taxi at the Liverpool Women’s Hospital just seconds before the 11am minute's silence on Sunday.

The bomber, who is understood to be a Jordanian national who spent much of his life in Iraq, had no known connections to terrorist groups.

He also spent eight months living with devout Christians Malcolm and Elizabeth Hitchcott at their home in Aigburth, Liverpool, after moving to the UK.

Last night the man who took him in said he felt "numbed" to learn that the "lovely man" who lived at his home for almost a year was behind the horror plot.

Mr Hitchocott, a former British Army soldier, told the Daily Mail: "It's almost too impossible to believe.

"There was nothing to suggest he could go on to become radicalised."

Mr Hitchcott said Al-Swealmeen had been arrested for possession of a "large knife" after his asylum claim was rejected in 2014, which led to him being sectioned under the Mental Health Act and hospitalised for several months.

But he and his wife described their "shock" that the "very quiet fellow" would try to commit an act of terror, telling ITV News they lived "cheek by jowl" when he stayed with them at their home.

Mrs Hitchcott told the broadcaster: "What a waste of a life. But the one thing I suppose to be thankful for is that he did not kill anyone else."

Mr Hitchcott saidAl-Swealmeen rejected Islam and converted to Christianity and was baptised and confirmed in Liverpool Cathedral in March 2017. 


"He first came to the cathedral in August 2015 and wanted to convert to Christianity," he explained.

"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."

Because of Al-Swealmeen’s severe injuries, it took police several hours to establish a potential identity – and he has yet to be formally identified.

🔵 Read our Liverpool explosion live blog for the latest updates

It remained unclear when exactly the bomber entered the UK but it was understood he had been in a long-term dispute with the Home Office over his application for UK residential status.

And he had not been granted leave to remain here permanently.

A source said: “One of the issues being looked at is whether this unresolved grievance pushed him over the edge and prompted him to carry out the attack.”

Following his arrival in the UK, Al-Swealmeen lived mostly in Liverpool, where he was supported by Christian ­volunteers from a network of churches helping asylum seekers.

It's been claimed that motor-racing enthusiast Al-Swealmeen had changed his first name to Enzo in honour of Ferrari founder Enzo Ferrari — and to sound less Muslim in a bid to help his asylum ­application.

Mr Hitchcott explained last night: “The UK asylum people were never convinced he was Syrian and he was refused asylum in 2014.

“He had his case rejected because he has been sectioned due to some mental health incident where he was waving a knife at people from an overpass.”

He had his case rejected because he has been sectioned due to some mental health incident where he was waving a knife at people from an overpass.

He added: “He was going to put in a fresh asylum claim. Once he had done that, it was possible for him to be housed again by the Home Office and get £35 a week.

“He didn’t want to stay here any more. So he could get the accommodation, I gave him notice to leave. He never talked about Islam, terrorism, nothing.”

On how they met, Mrs Hitchott said: “I bumped into him in a street, he was doing cake decoration at an educational class, a formal course somewhere, he was very enthusiastic.

"He showed me the designs he had done and what he was hoping to do in an upcoming exam. He was quite artistic.

“I gave him a sketchbook and pencils. He drew hills, flowers, everything around him.”

Al-Swealmeen had taken a taxi to Liverpool's Women's Hospital on Sunday from his home nearby.

CCTV footage captured the moment his home-made-ball-bearing device was detonated seconds after cabbie David Perry pulled up in front of the main entrance at 10.59 am.

Mr Perry survived by "a miracle".

What we know so far…

  • Police named the man killed in the taxi bomb as 32-year-old Emad Al-Swealmeen
  • He also went by the name Enzo Almeni
  • The terrorist was killed and taxi driver injured in a car bomb blast at Liverpool Women's Hospital on Sunday
  • Hero cabbie Dave Perry locked the passenger in the taxi to prevent further disaster
  • The horror is being treated as a terrorist incident but the motive is unclear
  • Four people have been arrested on suspicion of terror offences
  • The bomb was homemade and manufactured 'by the passenger in the taxi'
  • Boris Johnson will chair an emergency Cobra meeting today as the terror threat is raised to the second highest level of 'severe'

According to friends, Al-Swealmeen had spent a large part of his life in Iraq, where his mum came from.

It was claimed he had told friends he came from Syria — but The Sun understands he was a Jordanian national.

Mr and Mrs Hitchcott said he loved motor racing and would often do go-karting at Brunswick in Liverpool.

The bomb factory where Al-Swealmeen constructed his deadly ball bearing device was yesterday revealed as a bedsit.

Police carried out a controlled explosion at the studio room in a Victorian property in Rutland Avenue in the city’s upmarket Sefton Park district.

Smoke billowed from the house following the 4pm blast, with families having already been evacuated.

Neighbour Golam Shawom, 31, said: “I saw him a couple of times coming from the house. The last was two or three months ago.

“I think he worked as a delivery driver. I never spoke to him. I just saw him on his bike.

“It seemed like a quiet house. There are many families living here and old people but I never saw anyone at his house.”

Officers said Al-Swealmeen, who was not known to MI5, primed the bomb in the cab on the way to the hospital — though it was suspected that the home-made device did not explode with full intended force.

Security chiefs believe at this stage that he was a “lone actor” and have found no firm evidence of any connections to any terrorist groups.

Three men — aged 21, 26 and 29 — were arrested by armed cops on Sunday afternoon at a house in Sutcliffe Street in Liverpool’s Kensington district where Al-Swealmeen had previously lived for some time, two miles away from the bomb factory.

Neighbour Matthew Heitman, 26, said cops screamed “armed police” as they arrested the trio.

The lighting technician saw officers holding automatic weapons and riot shields swarm the property. A fourth man, aged 20, was arrested in the street at 9.15 yesterday morning.

They were released last night. Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson, said: “Following interviews we are satisfied with the accounts they have provided. The investigation continues to move at a fast pace.”

Detective Chief Inspector Andrew Meeks, of the UK’s Counter Terrorism Police North West Unit, said earlier: “Now that we have released his name, any information that the public may have about Al-Swealmeen, no matter how small, may be of great assistance to us.’’

Last night Home Secretary Priti Patel called off a scheduled trip to Paris to meet her French counterpart due to the Liverpool terror incident.

The two ministers were instead expected to discuss migrant crossings at a virtual meeting.


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