Video thumbnail, Jihadi John's west London house
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Former classmates of 'Jihadi John', unmasked as west Londoner Mohammed Emwazi, said it was hard to believe the quiet lad they had known from their Maida Vale schooldays is now a notorious terrorist.

Emwazi, reported to be 27-years-old, was the only Muslim pupil in his class at St Mary Magdalene Church of England Primary School in the affluent area before he went to Quentin Kynaston Community Academy in nearby St John’s Wood and then the University of Westminster.

The football-loving computer programmer, who moved to Little Venice when his family emigrated from Kuwait aged six, allegedly appeared in the sickening ISIS videos showing the beheadings of US journalist Steven Sotloff, British aid workers David and Alan Henning, Americans Peter Kassig and James Foley.

He may also have been the executioner involved in the killings of Japanese hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto.

It was reported this week that Emwazi, who joined the Westminster primary school in 1995, had once got into a fight with a fellow pupil but was described as usually keeping himself to himself and was dedicated to his religion.

Entries, appearing to be from a school yearbook, showed the youngster liked S Club 7 and wanted to be a footballer when he grew up.

One anonymous ex-classmate said: “It was a Church of England school and he was the only Muslim in our class. One time we had an RE lesson and he got up and talked about his religion.

“He wrote Arabic on the board to show us what it looked like and how it went in the other direction.

“That was when we were eight or nine. He mentioned fasting. His English wasn’t very good throughout primary school. He could only say a few words at first – like his name and where he was from.

“He played football every lunchtime and at the after-school football club. Through football, he learned different words and expressions. Like all the guys, he always wanted to be the striker.

“He wasn’t so good in school, he was the bottom half of the class, but he was one of the sporty guys. He was popular.”

Another ex-pupil from St Mary Magdalene, who asked not to be named, said: “He has shocked the whole world.

“I saw the name Mohammed Emwazi and I realised I knew him from primary school.

“I called my old friends from school and we were all completely shocked. He just seemed like a normal kid and there was no indication of him becoming the person that he is now.”

Emwazi left the school in 1999 and went to Quentin Kynaston Community Academy, also attended by singer Tulisa.

His family later moved to a two-storey maisonette in Queen’s Park, North London. As two policemen stood guard at the property on Thursday (February 26), a neighbour claimed he heard screaming rows coming from the home.

Another added: “Mohammed wasn’t what I could call a fundamental Muslim. He wore smart trendy Western clothes and on the surface there was no sign of radicalisation whatsoever.

“I’m staggered he has been identified as Jihadi John.”

Emwazi, who has one brother and two sisters and was said to worship at Greenwich Mosque in south London, spent late 2009 and early 2010 in Kuwait as a computer programmer. He returned home to visit in May and July 2010.

A family friend added: “He was just a normal boy, a bit temperamental as a teenager but I thought it was just puberty. He loved football and spending time with his friends.

“I am shocked. We knew his family were distressed because they didn’t know where he was. They are a lovely family, they are absolutely amazing.

“Mohammed’s father is one of the most good-natured men in the world. His mum is very nice too. I am completely overwhelmed.”

The man-hunt for the former west Londoner has been stepped up since his identity was revealed by US media this week, with families of his victims saying they want him found alive to face a trial..

The UK government and the Met Police are still refusing to confirm if Emwazi is ‘Jihadi John’ but they have not denied it.

Originally published on Mirror Online.