Edward Little planned to target Christian preacher Hatun Tash, a regular speaker at Hyde Park.
A man who planned a gun attack at central London’s Hyde Park has been jailed for at least 16 years.
Edward Little, 22, had intended to kill Christian preacher Hatun Tash after travelling from Brighton to the capital on 23 September last year.
He travelled by taxi with £5,000 to buy a firearm and bullets in south London when he was stopped by police and arrested.
In May, Muslim convert Little admitted preparing to commit acts of terrorism.
He was sentenced in his absence after he refused to attend Friday’s Old Bailey hearing.
The defendant had planned to target Ms Nash after deciding against an attack on the late Queen’s funeral in Westminster, the court heard.
In a televised hearing, Mrs Justice McGowan gave Little a life sentence with a minimum prison term of 16 years.
She said Little knew that Speakers’ Corner was famous for freedom of speech and that an attack there would have sent a strong message.
An attack at that location would have risked the lives of many people of all faiths and struck terror, Mrs Justice McGowan said.
The judge found Little’s attack plan was “viable” and he posed a danger to members of the public.
Last month, three members of a crime gang were jailed for conspiring to provide Little with a gun.
Previously, the court heard how Little converted to Islam at Cookham Wood Young Offender Institution in Kent and at HMP Deerbolt in County Durham, after he turned 18.
Last summer, he downloaded extremist propaganda including copies of the al-Qaida publication Inspire.
The defendant spoke of his desire to get hold of a submachine gun and assault rifle, in encrypted chats on the Threema messaging platform.
At one point, he wrote: “I don’t think there has been an attack in the UK with guns so a semi-automatic rifle would send a even stronger message.”
Prosecutor Duncan Penny KC had told the court how Little planned to kill Hatun Tash as well as anyone with her, and any police officers or soldiers in the area.
In his chats on Threema, Little referred to the preacher, who has described Islam as an “evil witch”, and said he could shoot her “point blank” and “everyone with her”.
Little said he would wear a camera so he could live-stream the attack.
On 17 September 2022, he claimed he “100%” had a “brother in prison” who would be joining in the “operation”.
He said he would travel to London for reconnaissance and see if it was best to “have us hit separate targets”.
On 18 September 2022, Little identified the Queen’s funeral – due to be held at Westminster Abbey the following day – as a possible alternative target.
It was suggested that “tyrants of the earth” would be there, to which Little responded: “I was just thinking that but unfortunately it’s too late.”
Five days later, Little set off with £5,000 in cash to buy a gun.
He agreed to pay a taxi driver £300 to take him from Brighton to Lewisham, saying money was no problem.
The plan was scuppered when armed police moved in to arrest him in south London.
Little declined to answer questions in police interviews but his mood changed when he was shown a YouTube video of the preacher.
He launched himself from his chair across the table at an officer, swinging repeatedly with his fists before being restrained.
He went on to admit assaulting the officer, at Newbury police station on 28 September 2022, and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Little had also pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent to a fellow inmate at Belmarsh prison on 3 April.
He attacked the victim with boiling water mixed with sugar and with two razor blades for “disrespecting” his religion.
Mrs Justice McGowan jailed Little for four years for that offence to run concurrently with his life sentence.
Previously, Little had been convicted of 14 offences in seven separate cases, including for robbery, having a knife and drug-dealing, dating back to 2017.
Speaking after sentencing at the Old Bailey, Det Ch Supt Olly Wright said: “This is a very, very dangerous man who’s been stopped from carrying out a terrorist attack.
“I’m absolutely convinced of that – and lives have been saved as a result.”
Det Ch Supt Wright added: “Obviously, he had a target at Speakers’ Corner but anyone who got in his way, like a police officer or members of the public, could have been at risk.”
During mitigation, Little’s barrister Tom Godfrey said the defendant had been under surveillance by security forces or police.
He said: “While I accept Mr Little was unaware that his activities were being monitored, the fact that he was being monitored demonstrates the unsophisticated nature of his planning.”
In a separate case at Inner London Crown Court, Reis Forde, 27, Caleb Wenyeve, 21, and Tyler King, also 21, were jailed after admitting being party to a plot to sell Little a gun, although it was accepted they did not know it was for a terror attack.
Forde was jailed for 13 years and six months, Wenyeve for 12 years and King for 10 years and nine months. All three admitted conspiring to transfer a prohibited firearm.