Police search for man who ‘recklessly’ framed innocent victim over Westminster terror attack

Police search for man who ‘recklessly’ framed innocent victim over Westminster terror attack
Gerald Banyard sent police incriminating notes ‘out of spite’ for his former landlord

Police are searching for a man who was convicted of falsely claiming there was a second person involved in the 2017 Westminster terror attack.

Scotland Yard said Gerald Banyard, 67, tried to frame an innocent man over Khalid Masood’s deadly car and knife rampage “out of spite for his former landlord”.

Masood killed four people on Westminster Bridge and stabbed PC Keith Palmer to death outside Parliament, before being shot dead by police in the first UK terror attack claimed by Isis.

Banyard, of Whalley in Lancashire, sent handwritten notes to police days after the attack on 22 March 2017 claiming Masood had been in contact with his landlord’s partner.

Barnyard denied writing the notes but was convicted of two counts of perverting the course of justice at Southwark Crown Court on Tuesday.

The Metropolitan Police said he failed to attend the verdict hearing, and is now being sought by officers after a warrant for his arrest was issued by the judge.

Commander Richard Smith, head of Scotland Yard’s Counter Terrorism Command, said that at the time Banyard sent his notes, officers were urgently investigating whether Masood had plotted with others, and if there was any further risk to the public.

“Banyard looked to exploit an extremely tragic and serious situation to try and settle what was a private dispute with his landlord,” he added.

“His actions meant that counter-terrorism resources were diverted to investigate what turned out to be a completely fabricated story, which implicated an innocent man.

“His actions were disgraceful and completely reckless and I hope this conviction demonstrates how seriously the police and courts take this type of offending.”

The probe started on 30 March 2017, eight days after the attack, when a package was delivered to the front counter of Brighton police station.

A note sent to police by Gerald Banyard in the aftermath of the 2017 Westminster terror attack

The first claimed to be from an American tourist called Kevin, who enclosed a second note supposedly found in his hotel room.

That document was addressed to a man called Khalid and was signed off with a name and phone number.

Two days later, on 1 April 2017, another letter was sent marked for the “very, very urgent” attention of counter-terror police investigating the Westminster attack.

It contained a further handwritten note, which stated that a named man from Eastbourne had been communicating with Masood and contained his phone numbers.

Detectives identified and contacted the man, but Scotland Yard said it “became apparent that he had never been in contact with the attacker”.

When asked if anyone had a reason to falsely accuse him, the man said Banyard had been involved in a dispute with his partner over a property he rented from her.

In August 2018, officers searched Banyard’s home in Lancashire and seized documents that showed his handwriting to be the same, and that he lived in the area where the letters were posted.

Anyone who knows Banyard’s whereabouts is asked to contact police on 101.

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