One man has been found guilty of a poison conspiracy but eight others have been cleared. The trials at the Old Bailey gave an insight into how the security services sought to tackle the threat posed after 9/11.
The conviction of Kamel Bourgass releases the stopper on a much bigger story.
The authorities in Britain have revealed that al-Qaeda was planning co-ordinated chemical and biological attacks right across Europe – some of which were masterminded in a flat above a chemist shop in north London.
The targets in the capital were to include the underground system as well as suburban streets.
In Paris, the authorities suspect al-Qaeda was to target the Metro, the Eiffel Tower and other tourist attractions in France.
There are also links to groups in Spain, Italy and Germany.
The former Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said: “It is absolutely certain that al-Qaeda were planning and preparing for co-ordinated attacks. We were very close indeed to disaster. We were actually much calmer and much more reassuring to the public than we felt ourselves.”
The story goes back to 1998 and Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist training camps in the Tora Bora Mountains of Afghanistan.
Among the terror trainees was Kamel Bourgass who had been selected as a poisons maker.
Also in the camp was Mohammed Meguerba who would ultimately betray him.
Graduates of the camps were told to set up sleeper cells across Europe, to plan – and await instructions.
At different times and by different routes Meguerba and Bourgass made their way to north London and the Finsbury Park mosque – now under new management, but then an al- Qaeda support centre.
Meguerba was given Â£4,000 to set up a cover story – a story of roses and chocolates.
A company called Seven Roses Ltd was founded – basically a market stall in south London selling chocolates by day.
By night Meguerba helped Kamel Bourgass make poisons.
Using ingredients that can be bought from a tobacconist shop, they followed a recipe for nicotine poison. Meguerba later revealed that the plan was to smear nicotine poison on the handles of cars and houses in the Holloway area of north London.
Bourgass was also following the recipe for making ricin poison from castor oil beans. Just a few grains can kill.
The product was put into two empty Nivea cream jars.
Hundreds of miles away in the French city of Lyons another graduate of al-Qaeda’s camp had set up a bedsit laboratory.
Menad Benchallali also spent the summer of 2002 grinding castor oil beans.
Security sources say the al-Qaeda chemist took over his mother’s kitchen at night to cook up his poisons.
A coffee pot was used to blend the ingredients; the doughy mixture spooned onto newspapers on his mother’s ironing board and, once dry, transferred into a Nivea jar.
Roland Jacguard from the Paris-based International Observatory on Terrorism said: “It’s more than just a coincidence. It’s probably the same part of the same plan because they want to create the panic in London and in Paris at the same time.”
The French authorities believe the French terror group were planning ricin attacks on the Eiffel Tower and other tourist attractions as well as a cyanide gas attack on the Metro.
In London – although played down at the time – we now know that a similar gas attack was anticipated on the London Underground.
200 people from the Prime Minister to British Transport Police were warned – but the security forces were chasing shadows. They were convinced something big was planned but didn’t know what or where.
Among them was the Secretary General of Interpol, Ron Noble: “What we’ve learned from al-Qaeda is they are into spectacular attacks and the multi-country attacks and the simultaneous attacks. And in Europe, it would be very easy for a simultaneous attack to occur.”
If they had succeeded officials in the UK believe the impact on our lives would have been as great as 9/11.