Former Chesterfield chip shop owner goes on trial for alleged terror plot

Police pictured outside Mermaid Fish Bar on Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, in December 2017. Andy Star owned the fish bar at the time.
Police pictured outside Mermaid Fish Bar on Sheffield Road, Chesterfield, in December 2017. Andy Star owned the fish bar at the time.

A Chesterfield man accused of preparing acts of terrorism in the UK has today gone on trial.

Andy Star, 32, the former owner of the Mermaid Fish Bar, Sheffield Road, is accused of researching, obtaining and testing chemicals, substances and explosive devices with a view to committing attacks in the UK in support of so-called Islamic State.

His co-defendant, Farhad Salah, 23, of Brunswick Road, Sheffield, faces the same accusation.

Both men, who are Iraqi nationals, deny the charge.

One method of attack is believed to have involved a driverless car, Sheffield Crown Court heard.

In one message to a contact, Mr Salah wrote: "My only attempt is to find a way to carry out martyrdom operation with cars without driver everything is perfect only the programme is left."

Prosecuting, Anne Whyte QC, said: "The prosecution allege that Farhad Salah and Andy Star had decided that improvised explosive devices could be made and used in a way here in the UK that spared their own lives preferably but harmed others they considered to be infidels."

The court heard that various 'significant' items were allegedly found at Mr Star's address including tubes, cylinders, homemade fireworks, copper piping, six screws wrapped in rubber, foil, two air rifles, two samurai swords, sulphuric acid and other substances including gunpowder.

Armed officers attended Mr Star's address just before 6am on December 19, 2017 and forced open the door.

After numerous shouts from officers, Mr Star came downstairs at about 6.10am and responded 'what is this about?' and was said to be compliant with officers' requests.

He was then taken to Bradford police station where he subsequently provided PIN numbers for three devices found inside his address - a iPad, an iphone 5 and an iphone 6.

The search of the Mermaid Fish Bar continued for several days and was completed on December 23.

Officers allegedly found that a fridge had been placed directly below the loft of Mr Star's property to gain access to the space - which is where the majority of items were found.

Senior forensic case officer, Sarah Wilson, inspected the items found at Star's address and concluded there were several partially constructed explosive devices, a number of already functioned devices, a quantity of viable low explosive material and improvised pyrotechnic fuses.

Ms Wilson tested the various substances and found that they included gunpowder.

In total, there was 506g of viable low explosive material - such material will burn when ignited and if suitably confined within an enclosed pipe, can be made to explode, the court heard.

Meanwhile, on the same day and around the same time, officers gained entry to Mr Salah's property and allegedly found a number of items of interest and he was arrested.

The court heard that Mr Salah was apparently a regular user of social media and 'liked' videos on Facebook which glorified IS.

It is also alleged that Mr Salah wanted to travel to Syria and sought help in how to get there. It is not known how both men met.

The jury heard how Mr Star allegedly helped Mr Salah transfer $100 to an IS fighter in Turkey.

Ms Whyte said: "It is our case that Salah was getting increasingly desperate to do something in the cause of IS. He was frustrated that he had not yet been able to travel out to the Middle East.

"In other words he was attack planning. But he was not planning alone. Andy Star was obtaining the materials necessary to conduct small test runs with explosives and Star was making those devices in his flat. Salah in turn was communicatingh his intentions to other people, as you will hear."

She added: "It is entirely conceivable that Andy Star's extreme views developed a relatively short time before the events with which we are concerned. And it is also entirely conceivable that his interest in making fireworks preceded the development of his firmer religious beliefs."

Mr Star's attitude is believe to have changed around summer 2017. He allegedly made online searches such as 'AK47 sniper' and the name of an IS commander.

In November 2017 Mr Star apparently created a video file on his mobile phone named 'homemade fireworks' and it showed a person throwing an object up into the sky and exploding.

An IS propaganda video called 'Flames of War Part Two' was played in court. Mr Salah is alleged to have shared the video with two other people.

While both men were said to have 'liked' an IS video online and then on the same day Mr Star started searching online for the explosive substance nitrocellulose.

The trial continues.