The foster parents of the Parsons Green bomber Ahmed Hassan have told Sky News of the dramatic moment armed police raided their home.
Describing Ahmed as a “good boy”, Penny Jones says she has no idea what turned the “quiet” Iraqi asylum seeker who she took in and who called her “mum” into someone who wanted to kill commuters at rush hour in London.
Mrs Jones said she and her husband Ron were watching darts at their Surrey home when the phone rang.
Irritated at being interrupted, Penny described how she reluctantly answered the phone and snapped “hello” at the caller.
She said: “A voice said ‘this is the police. You are surrounded by armed police. Put everything down and get out now.’
“I looked up, there were two eyes at the window, a mouth and a gun… and that was the first we knew.
“And it wasn’t until I got outside and I said to the police officer ‘are you trying to tell me Ahmed has done something?’ and he said yes, and I went ‘what?’ and he said ‘the bombing’. And I was dumb struck.
“I just couldn’t believe it because he was such a good lad.'”
Mr Jones said: “I couldn’t believe it. It’s still hard to believe that he could have done such a thing because he was such a good boy.”
Penny and Ron have fostered 269 youngsters over a 40-year period.
Penny said: “We’ve always tried to do our best and when kids come to live in my house… they may be somebody else’s child but when they’re in my house they’re my responsibility, they’re my children. And I always refer to them as my kids.”
She explained that whenever they went shopping and Ahmed was at home he would rush out to help her with the bags.
Penny described 18-year-old Ahmed as respectful and polite but an asylum seeker who came to her aged 17 with a lot of problems.
She said: “He told us he lived in Baghdad and that his mum had been killed when the troops were out there looking for Saddam Hussein and that his dad had been blown up by IS in his taxi.
“He didn’t talk about western involvement in Iraq.
“When it came up to Christmas I said to him ‘I know you’re Muslim and you don’t do Christmas but do you mind if we put a few Christmas decorations up, and his attitude was ‘I’ve come to live in your country, you’re a Christian country, you’re a Christian family and I will go along with it.’
Ahmed was a photography student doing well at college. When asked what went wrong, Penny said simply: “I don’t know.”
The couple proudly display a framed photograph on their sitting room wall of the day they received an MBE at Buckingham Palace for their work fostering.
They built up a close relationship with Ahmed and said he called Penny his “English mum”, sending her a birthday card shortly before the bombing saying, “wishing you a day filled with happy memories and a year with numerous reasons to be thankful. May god bless you”.
She said sadly: “I feel as if he’s let me down. He’s betrayed me. All I wanted to do is care for these children, make sure they get a good life and I put them on the right track.”
Even though the couple say they have no idea who or what radicalised Ahmed they said that looking back, he became agitated in the weeks before the bombing.
Ron said: “There were times he got a phone call and he’d go up the garden and be walking up and down the garden at the bottom and he seemed to be getting quite aerated and arguing with somebody and when he came back I’ve said to him ‘everything alright Ahmed?’ and he said ‘yes fine’.
“I said, ‘only you looked a bit annoyed when you were on the phone, are you sure everything’s alright? If you want to talk about anything, that’s what we’re here for.”
Penny said there were some late night phone calls which disturbed the household.
“I had to speak to him several times about phone calls at two o’clock in the morning because I’m a light sleeper and I’d hear him talking on the phone. He used to say to me it was his brother or uncle and I said they need to phone before I go to bed.”
The foster couple said they had to get Ahmed’s bedroom door replaced after he headbutted it and broke it.
Showing the room – now devoid of any of Ahmed’s possessions which were taken away by the police – Ron pointed at the door and said: “He’d written ‘I’m bored’ and when I tackled him about it he had nothing to say and said ‘I’m alright’.”
The couple say they had taken in another foster boy called Binyam who appeared to have clashed with Ahmed, describing him as “brainwashed” and “mad”.
Should there have been more checks on Ahmed before he was fostered?
Penny replied: “You can’t have more checks because they haven’t come in from a refugee centre.
“If they’ve come from a refugee centre they’ve come with their papers so you can check on their papers.
“But when they’ve come in on the back of a lorry there aren’t any checks – you just have to take it at face value.
“He was in the camp at Calais for a long time, managed to get himself in the truck and as so many of them do, got to Cobham services. Then they’re picked up by the police and social services get involved because they’re under age.
“He had three places before he came to me and the last place before he came to me he was living in student accommodation all on his own and couldn’t cope.”
In spite of what they’ve been through, Penny and Ron said they would foster again.
“Just because you’ve got one that’s done something wrong there’s still somebody out there that needs your love and care and needs to be looked after,” Penny said.
“I wouldn’t say I’m angry. I’m really disappointed that he has done this and that he’s put everybody else at risk. That’s what I’m angry about.
“There must have been a reason for it but I can’t say what it is.”
The couple have not had any contact with Ahmed since the day of the bombing because that would feel like condoning his actions.
“Once I knew it was Ahmed I was horrified,” Penny said. “I’m so glad he didn’t do it right.”
She added: “I’m really sorry people got hurt and I feel sorry for the ladies who were burnt.
“I would have been distraught if people had been killed knowing that that had come from my house.”
Ron said: “‘I’m very disappointed about it but I am thankful that he didn’t do the job properly because I don’t think I could have lived if he’d have got any further and done what it should have done.”
From – SkyNews