Man jailed for trying to frame Eastbourne resident for Westminster terrorist attack
A man who tried to frame his Eastbourne landlord’s partner for being involved in the Westminster terrorist attack has been jailed.
Gerald Banyard, 67, of Whalley, Lancashire, sent two handwritten notes to police in the days after the Westminster Bridge attack – where four people lost their lives and more than 50 were injured – which suggested that there may have been a second person involved in its planning, according to Metropolitan Police.
A Metropolitan Police spokesperson said, “Upon further investigation, it was 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 on Tuesday, May 11, at Southwark Crown Court of two counts of perverting the course of justice following a week-long trial.
“At the same court on Thursday, May 20, he was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment for these offences.
“A restraining order was also issued.”
He was jailed for an additional two months for failing to appear at court for the May 11 verdict hearing, according to police.
Police said a warrant for his arrest was issued at that hearing, and he was subsequently located in Scotland and arrested on Friday, May 14.
Commander Richard Smith, head of the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command, said, “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 reckless and I hope this conviction demonstrates how seriously the police and courts take this type of offending.”
Police said on March 30, 2017 – eight days after the Westminster attack – a package with two hand-written notes was delivered to the front counter of Brighton Police Station.
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, according to police.
The police spokesperson said, “The second note was addressed to “Khalid” and was signed off with a name and phone number.
“The package was passed to the Met’s counter terrorism detectives, who at the time were carrying out fast-time enquiries to establish whether the man responsible for the Westminster attack had acted alone or was part of a wider network.
“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.”
Police said detectives carried out enquiries on the name and the phone numbers before identifying and contacting the man but it became apparent that he had never been in contact with the attacker as alleged.
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, according to police.
The police spokesperson said, “Further enquiries were carried out and on August 30, 2018, officers executed a search warrant at his home address in Lancashire.
“He was interviewed by officers, but Banyard denied that he had written the notes.
“Officers seized various notes and documents, some of which contained Banyard’s handwriting.
“A handwriting expert compared the handwriting with the notes sent to police and determined that it was highly likely Banyard had written them.
“Furthermore, enquiries established that Banyard was living in the Leeds area at the time the second letter was posted and processed via the Leeds sorting office.”
According to police, Banyard was charged with perverting the course of justice and first appeared at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on May 24, 2019.