The 19-year-old arrested for attempting to bomb a London Underground train station has been named as Damon Smith, originally from Newton Abbott in Devon.
Smith has been described as a “loner” and a “mummy’s boy” who enjoyed playing poker for cash. He had moved to the capital over the summer in order to start university, and was joined there by his mother, Antonitza, who feared he would struggle on his own, neighbours have claimed.
He was filmed being Tasered and wrestled to the ground by police a short distance from Holloway Road tube station outside his university campus, about nine miles from North Greenwich, where the explosive device he left was found and destroyed in a controlled explosion. A witness to the arrest told The Telegraph at the time that the suspect was Asian.
He remains in custody and is being questioned on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts. Friends say Smith was interested in Syria and Islam, and had recently begun reading the Koran. He appears to have travelled to Tunisia and Turkey on holiday this year, posting a picture of himself listening to the call to prayer at a Turkish mosque on Facebook.
Former best friend Vincent Jones, 19, told The Daily Mail: “Damon was quite successful at poker. He had a Koran and knew several phrases and he wore a black headscarf. Damon had replica guns and air rifles.”
Neighbours described Smith as a mummy’s boy who had few friends, but seemed nice. Ray and Enid Wilkinson, who live on the same street in Newton Abbott as Smith’s former home, told The Telegraph that Smith’s mother was divorced.
She said: “We knew the pair there because she had a dog and she used to go past with her dog…. Back in the summer they moved to London, the mother and son. We used to speak to her and the son.
“They are Teign Housing Association houses so she put in for a transfer, she told us that she wanted to move.
“He went first. He went – the son – and then one day she said to Ray, I’ll be moving soon, they’ve got me a place in London.”
Mr. Wilkinson added: “He [the son] used to play poker, he’d play poker, he was a real poker fan and he used to join clubs and things like that. He didn’t speak too much.”
His wife added: “He was a quiet boy actually. He was just an ordinary teenager.”
Another neighbour, who declined to be named, said Smith seemed “vulnerable”. Of the mother’s move to London, they said: “Mum felt she needed to still be nearby to cook his dinner and stuff. I think that was another reason why I thought he was a bit vulnerable.
“It wasn’t just because he was starting university but it was that they were fed up of the area, there was nothing here for them… They were always together, I don’t really remember him being with anyone else. He didn’t have a big friendship circle or anything.”
Smith’s ex-girlfriend Deanna Jones, 20, sister of former best friend Vincent, told The Sun: “His mother used to come with him on dates, which seemed odd.”
The family’s home in Newton Abbott was raided over the weekend by Scotland Yard, with officers swarming the small town, arriving by helicopter. Roads were closed off and football matches cancelled so that they could land on the pitch.
A device was found at the home, but was declared “non-viable” by experts. The device found on the tube was deemed to be “viable” but at the “bottom end of seriousness”.
Youtube footage has emerged of Smith firing what appears to be an imitation Glock pistol into a pile of cardboard boxes inside his home.
He said in an effeminate voice: “Hello everyone. I’m going to shoot my gun. So, let’s shoot it. We’ll shoot it one time.”
After firing, he exclaimed: “Oh, shit! And I don’t know where the cartridge went. It went somewhere. And yeah, thanks for watching.”
A London Metropolitan University spokesman said: “We can confirm that Damon Smith joined our University as a new student three weeks ago. We won’t be making any further comment at this time.”
Scotland Yard, who have until Friday to question Smith, have refused to confirm his identity. In a statement, they said: “Officers are keeping an open mind regarding any possible motive. They are not looking for anyone else in relation to this investigation at this stage.”