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Minimum 40 years for racist killer
A PhD student who tried to wage a deadly race war by murdering an 82-year-old Muslim man and planting bombs near mosques will spend at least 40 years behind bars.
Ukrainian Pavlo Lapshyn, 25, was given a life sentence with a minimum term of 40 years at the Old Bailey today for killing Mohammed Saleem and causing the three blasts because he hated "non-whites".
But he avoided a whole life term because Mr Justice Sweeney found he had acted alone and was driven by his own warped beliefs rather than furthering a wider cause.
Pensioner and father-of-seven Mr Saleem, who walked with a stick, was stabbed three times yards from his house as he walked home alone after worship on April 29.
Lapshyn told police that he had wanted to stab him in the heart. While he was at large for the killing, he planted three bombs near mosques in Walsall, Wolverhampton and Tipton in the West Midlands.
The third device, that exploded near the Kanzul Iman mosque in Tipton, was stuffed with shrapnel, and experts said it had the potential to cause mass injuries and death.
It was only because Lapshyn got the wrong time for Friday prayers that the blast did not claim lives.
Passing sentence today, Mr Justice Sweeney told him: "You clearly hold extremist right wing, white supremacist views and you were motivated to commit the offences by religious and racial hatred in the hope that you would ignite racial conflict and cause Muslims to leave the area where you were living.
"Such views, hatred and motivations have no place whatsoever in our multi-faith and multi-cultural society."
Mr Saleem's daugher Shazia Khan was among relatives who watched from the public gallery as sentence was passed.
Mr Justice Sweeney read her victim impact statement that said the effect of her father's violent death was "a rollercoaster experience where the ride will never end".
She said: "The shock and sadness of the reality is impossible to accept, yet alone accept and move on. We can't move forward, the murder has disabled our minds in every emotional way possible.
"Dad did not die of old age or illness, he died because he was stabbed violently in the back by a gutless coward who did not have the courage to face him before he took his life away."
Prosecutor Peter Wright QC told the court that PhD student Lapshyn had come to the UK as part of software firm Delcam's sponsorship programme with the National Metallurgy Academy in Ukraine. The scheme is now under review following his horrifying crimes.
When police searched his room at Delcam they found a camera containing 455 photos and 98 videos featuring bomb-making and guns, including clips of Lapshyn testing homemade explosive devices in his native Ukraine.
They also found racist and homophobic right wing material, including a video game called Ethnic Cleansing, as well as a chilling picture of Lapshyn posing with the hunting knife that he used to kill Mr Saleem, and apparent anonymous notes that he planned to use to taunt the police.
One featured a photograph of the hunting knife, next to which Lapshyn had written "Mohammed Saleem was killed by".
He referred to a police reward for information, saying "£10,000 small price, maybe £1 million", followed by a smiley face, and the phrase "white power".
Other documents had been drawn up to taunt police about his bombing campaign, again featuring smiley faces.
The Old Bailey was told that the extremist began researching potential sites in Birmingham to buy bomb parts as early as March 2012, before he was even granted a placed on Delcam's programme.
He openly told officers that he was motivated by racism, saying that he wanted to increase racial tensions and drive Muslims out of the area.
He told officers: "I have racial motivation and racial hatred."
Explaining why he had decided not to pass a whole life tariff, the judge said: "I'm not sure that you murdered Mr Saleem to further a cause as such. Rather it seems to me that you were acting alone and motivated by your own extreme and appalling prejudices. Albeit that there are other wholly misguided organisations and individuals who share your views."
Speaking outside court, Mr Saleem's son-in-law Hanif Khan said the family had to respect the judge's decision.
"We've got 40 years but we've lost a beloved person. It's hard to come to terms with," he said. "Forty years is still a long sentence. We have to respect the judge, he summed up the case very well and we respect his authority in this matter."
Assistant Chief Constable Marcus Beale from West Midlands Police said Lapshyn was "very definitely driven by an extreme right-wing ideology and white supremacist ideology".
He added: " The judge has seen the full significance of this case and the tragedy that was visited on Mohammed Saleem's family.
"We heard some of their victim impact statement and your heart cannot help but reach out to them. He's received an extremely lengthy sentence because of that. "
Asked to describe Lapshyn's manner in police interview, he said: "He was matter-of-fact, he was cold, he was callous.
"I do not think he has shown any remorse or regret for the crimes that have taken place."