TUESDAY in Dewsbury turned into a typical English summer’s mix of sunshine, scudding clouds and heavy showers. At precisely 8.48am however, a bleak, heavy drizzle descended on Lees Holm, a small estate of council houses between Brewery Lane and Lees Hall Road in Thornhill Lees.
A police patrol car and a police van were stationed discreetly around the corner from number 69, tucked away as it is in the cul-de-sac end of Lees Holm, backing onto Parker Road.
Opposite the white-curtained house, outside number 41, a woman clad head to toe in black, her face completely covered with the customary veil, was putting out the family wheelie bin.
Further afield, roads and streets and junctions around Thornhill Lees and neighbouring Savile Town crawled at a gridlock pace as parents ferried their children to school.
Business as usual.
Exactly 10 years before, to the dying breath, on July 7, 2005, Mohammed Siddique Khan, lately of 69 Lees Holm, sat on a tube train as it rattled its way westwards from King’s Cross towards the Edgware Road station. Khan was contemplating his final seconds.
His date with apocalypse was July 7, apparently, because he had delayed the mass suicide bombing of England’s capital by a day, so that he could take his pregnant wife Hasina to an ante-natal appointment at Dewsbury District Hospital.
Was the child he would never see his final thought, before he blew himself, that train carriage and its innocent passengers apart? Or was Khan imagining his Muslim paradise as he prepared to explode his home-made bomb?
What did Mohammed Siddique Khan, mentor to fellow suicide bombers Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Jermaine Lindsay, think their mass murder would achieve?
We will never know.
And what the police in Lees Holm on the 10th anniversary of the bombings were anticipating is a mystery too. While London staged solemn ceremonies to mark the heroism and sacrifices that marked the tragedy, Dewsbury continued down the path it has followed every day since – trying to pretend it never happened.
KHAN was first identified by a bank card in the debris of the devastated Edgware Road tube train that linked him to an address in Soothill, Batley – 11 Gregory Street.
My dad lived just over the wall from Gregory Street School as a child. My mum, sister and I, along with an auntie and cousins, lived in Lees Holm, yards from Mohammed Siddique Khan’s house, though long before he arrived. Clearly it never felt like home to him. Only black oblivion offered Khan the comforts his spirit required.
What had this community, this town, this country done to poison a young man to the point that he felt justified in massacring dozens of innocent strangers – some of whom even shared his faith?
What ‘God’ venerates that kind of atrocity?
And now, 10 years on, what exactly have Khan and his acolytes achieved?
Within hours of the identities and addresses of the four bombers being revealed, Dewsbury, for possibly the first but by far from the last time, would be crawling with journalists and camera crews, prevented by the police from getting too close to 69 Lees Holm, or the well-kept bungalow in nearby Lodge Farm Close, home of Khan’s mother-in-law, Farida Patel.
Mrs Patel was a popular community worker who only recently had been invited to attend a royal tea party at Buckingham Palace and whose world would also be torn apart by her son-in-law’s atrocities.
THE week before the 10th anniversary, James Pheby, a journalist with the French national news agency Agence France-Presse, asked me to show him around Savile Town, the area that national newspapers had recently reported was “97% Muslim”.
If ever the newspaper game loses its appeal, there might be a business doing guided tours. In recent weeks it had been reporters and broadcasters poking their pens and microphones into what lay behind Talha Asmal’s suicide bombing in Iraq, and the mysterious Munshi family, still to explain why despite the family patriarch being the highest profile Islamic cleric in the area, they have bred two terrorists.
All have left none the wiser.
As shocking to outsiders as that figure of 97% might be, it was, as I explained to the journalist as we drove through the tightlypacked streets, an out-dated statistic.
The Kirklees Council electoral roll from December 2014 showed that of more than 3,200 registered voters between Headfield Road and the River Calder, there were only 24 white British/European – 20 of them on Headfield Road, and four classed as resident at the nearby canal basin.
Within what Dewsbury people regard as Savile Town, the figure is as close to 100 per cent as makes no difference.
The iconic Markazi mosque resembles a building site at the moment, but still visitors are always struck by its fortress appearance, dire warnings to trespassers and forbidding of photography. They struggle to understand the nuanced differences between Savile Town’s hard-line Deobandis and the more moderate Sufi/Barelvis.
For most, the Shia/Sunni divide that is tearing apart the Middle East is complicated enough without delving into the further schisms of what is less a religion than an ideology, one which encompasses politics, law, business, education – and of course, scripture.
But it remains an intractable ideology which might occasionally tolerate, but will never embrace, other cultures or beliefs. Ever.
That division, that fanatical superiority, is what Mohammed Siddique Khan took all those lives in the name of. His goal was to instill fear, to separate and to divide.
Ten years on, the evidence would suggest that he succeeded.