Several detailed picture of life of London attacker Khalid Masood have emerged. Schoolfriends said Masood, then Adrian Russell Ajao, was an intelligent, talented and popular boy at secondary school in the Home Counties.
Be that as it may, one previous friend said that he put some distance between Masood after they exited school when the future fear monger started smoking cannabis.
The Metropolitan Police said Masood was born in Dartford, Kent, on Christmas Day 1964. His surname, Ajao, is believed to be that of his father Philip, a Nigerian. There are reports that he may have spent some of his childhood in picturesque Sussex where his single mother, Janet Elms, married. She gave birth to him at 17.
He attended Huntley’s Secondary School, Tunbridge Wells, Kent, in London’s affluent “stockbroker belt” and played for the school football team.
A photograph of the team in the early 1980s shows a teenage Masood alongside Kenton Till. Speaking to MailOnline, Till said Masood “might have been the only black kid at the school”.
The photograph shows him to be the only non-white face in the football team and the home counties were not noted for their ethnic diversity in 1980s. Today they remain predominately white.
Till acknowledged that Masood “experienced a little bit of racism” at school but added that he was popular and talented. Stuart Knight, who is also in the black and white team photograph, described Masood as a “smashing guy, really nice chap” to The Guardian.
In both photographs Masood appears confident and happy – he stands in the middle of his peer group and was also a tall teenager.
Till told MailOnline: “We were good friends for about three of four years he was very bright, very academic and he was good sports – good at everything really. He was very good at football.
“He wasn’t religious at all. He was a big character, very friendly and a good laugh. He was always being everybody’s mate. He might have been the only black kid at the school. He experienced a little bit of racism but not a lot because he always tried to be popular.
“We used to socialise together up until we left school but he turned up to a party at my house with some friends after they had been smoking puff [cannabis] and my mum threw them all out. We sort of lost touch after that.”
Masood’s life started to go awry in his late teens. In 1983 Masood, an avid bodybuilder, was convicted of criminal damage. It is not clear whether his crime occurred before or after the cannabis incident in the Till family home. Masood went on to earn a string of criminal convictions, most recently for possessing a knife in 2003.
Masood was known to MI5 as a “peripheral figure” but police said that he was “not the subject of any current investigations and there was no prior intelligence about his intent to mount a terrorist attack”.
On Wednesday, Masood drove a car down the pavement on Westminster Bridge and mowed down scores of people before leaving the vehicle, entering the parliamentary estate, and stabbing PC Keith Palmer to death.
Police have arrested 10 people in connection with the attack at addresses in London, the West Midlands and the north-west of England.
Schoolfriend Knight told The Guardian: “I am really, really shocked. He was in my class. He was a smashing guy, really nice chap. The picture of us in the football team was after we did a 24-hour sponsored football match to raise money for the sports hall.
“We would have been about 14 years old. Everyone got on with Adrian, he was a lovely bloke. He was a bright student, he loved sport. He was in the rugby team.”