13 May 2021
A former tenant who tried to frame his landlord’s partner as being involved in the Westminster terrorist attack has been convicted of perverting the course of justice – but he is now on the run.
Gerald Banyard, 67 and from Lancashire, sent two handwritten notes to police days after the Westminster Bridge terrorist attack which suggested that there may have been a second person involved in its planning.
It was subsequently found that the person who was being implicated was entirely innocent, and enquiries found that Banyard had sent the notes out of spite for his former landlord.
He was found guilty earlier this week at Southwark Crown Court of two counts of perverting the course of justice following a week-long trial. He is due to be sentenced on a date to be confirmed.
Banyard failed to attend the verdict hearing and he is now being sought by police.
Commander Richard Smith head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, says:“In the immediate aftermath of the Westminster attack, our main priority was to establish whether the attacker might have plotted with others, and whether there was any outstanding threat.
This involved scores of officers working around the clock and pursuing various lines of enquiry in order to keep the public safe.
“Banyard looked to exploit an extremely tragic and serious situation to try and settle what was a private dispute with his landlord. 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.”
On March 30 2017 – eight days after the Westminster attack – a package was delivered to the front counter of Brighton police station. In the package were two hand-written notes. The first was made out to be from an ‘American tourist’ called ‘Kevin’, and he had enclosed the second note, saying he found it in his hotel room.
The second note was addressed to “Khalid” and was signed off with a name and phone number.
On April 1 2017, another letter was sent through the post via a sorting office in Leeds. The letter had been marked for the urgent attention of Scotland Yard detectives investigating the Westminster attack. Inside, there was a further hand-written note, which stated that a named man from Eastbourne had been communicating with the attacker. The man’s phone numbers were included.
Detectives carried out enquiries on the name and the phone numbers and identified and contacted the man. Officers questioned him about the notes, and it became apparent that he had never been in contact with the attacker as alleged.
Officers asked the man whether he could think of anyone who might have had reason to implicate him in the attack. Banyard was identified as a possible suspect as he was involved in a landlord-tenant dispute with the man’s partner over a property Banyard was renting from her.