Islamist militant Mohammed Emwazi’s former headteacher has said images of him supposedly beheading hostages is so far from the boy she knew.
Jo Shuter has told of her shock and horror at learning the "quiet, reasonably hard-working young person" she knew while headteacher at Quentin Kynaston Community Academy is the world’s most wanted man.
The identity of the 26-year-old, known as 'Jihadi John', was revealed last week and since then numerous friends and former employers have told how he was quiet and they could not have predicted he would turn into a radicalised jihadist.
Ms Shuter, who was headteacher at the St John’s Wood school for more than 10 years from 2002, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme there was no indication any of her pupils were being radicalised.
She said Emwazi, who grew up in St John’s Wood and Queen’s Park after he moved from Kuwait aged six, was bullied a bit during his school years but that was dealt with and by the time he was in sixth form "he was a hard-working aspirational young man".
“I’m not prepared to say when the radicalisation took place,” she said. “All I can say is absolutely hand on heart we had no knowledge about it, if we had we would have done something about it.”
Two other pupils from the school are also thought to have gone to fight in Syria and Somalia but Ms Shuter added: “I was a secular Jewish head in a 70% Muslim school, it was an interesting dynamic that was set up and allowed us to have conversations which were really relevant. None of these young men, as I knew them, were radicalised while in school.”
She told how she knew Emwazi personally and, despite having a few teenage issues and being quiet with not too many friends, he was not a huge concern to the school.
“The ethos praised by three Ofsted inspections was one of tolerance,” she added. “Young people could talk to adults, there was always somebody available and if anybody was concerned about friends they could come to us.”
'Shock and horror'
The school’s pledge says: "We’re intolerant of intolerance", which Ms Shuter said was because they wanted to make sure their students felt part of the school and, in the event of any problems, they would have worked with other agencies to get to the bottom of it, which they did on a number of other issues.
Emwazi was reportedly part of a gang but Ms Shuter said the school were not aware of this: “He didn’t present like that and we had no information around those sorts of things.”
The headteacher emphasised how important it is for families to know their children, know who they’re speaking to and what they’re doing, which is what the school did, she says.
“It’s the ignorance about what our young people are doing that can allow other people to step in and fill a gap that those young people perceive to be there,” she said.
Ms Shuter added: “I can’t even begin to say the kind of shock and horror I feel. Even now, when I’m listening to the news and I hear his name it makes the skin on the back of my neck stand up because it’s so far from what I knew of him and so shocking and horrendous, the things he’s done.”
The former headteacher left Quentin Kynaston in June 2013 and was then banned from teaching due to expenses abuses which she has now been given permission to appeal against.
The former employer of Emwazi, in Kuwait City, told the Guardian: "He was the best employee we ever had."
“He was very good with people. Calm and decent. How could someone as calm and quiet as him become like the man who we saw on the news? It’s just not logical that he could be this guy.”
Meanwhile, claims have emerged saying the IS militant’s father, Jasem Emwazi, 51, is a conservative Muslim who shielded his children from Western culture and moved his family to London from their native Kuwait after being accused of allegedly collaborating with Saddam Hussein’s forces during Iraq’s invasion of the country.
- 1988 : Born in Kuwait
- 1994 : Moves with family to UK
- 2009 : Completes computing degree at University of Westminster
- August 2009: Travels to Tanzania with two friends - he says for safari - but refused entry at Dar es Salaam. Put on flight to Amsterdam. After questioning there, returns to Dover
- Sept 2009: Travels to Kuwait to stay with father's family
- July 2010: Returns to UK for short stay but told he cannot return to Kuwait as visa denied
- 2012: Passes Celta English language teaching course
- 2013: Changes name by deed poll. Tries to travel to Kuwait but is stopped. Disappears. Parents report him missing. Police tell family four months later he has entered Syria
- February 2015: Revealed as 'Jihadi John', the man in several IS videos seen beheading Western journalists and aid workers
Timeline source: Cage, London-based campaign group