Man 'tried to buy enough ricin to kill 1,400 people', court hears

A man tried to use the anonymous "dark web" to buy "enough ricin to kill up to 1,400 people", a court has heard.

Mohammed Ammer Ali, 31, of Prescot Road, Liverpool, then set about finding a rabbit or other "pocket-sized pet" to test it on, the Old Bailey heard.

He tried to purchase a lethal dose of the toxin online, but was caught by an undercover FBI agent posing as a seller, prosecutors said.

Mr Ali denies a charge of attempting to possess a chemical weapon.

In encrypted chats, Mr Ali and the US agent discussed the price of a lethal dose and repeat purchases, jurors were told.

'Homemade poison'

Sally Howes QC, prosecuting, said the agent arranged for a harmless powder hidden inside a toy car to be sent to Mr Ali's home.

A police raid in February found a computer used to access the "dark web" and a mobile phone which had been used to search for "homemade poison" and "what poison is easily concealed?".

Records also showed he had made a payment using online currency Bitcoin days before the delivery.

In one exchange with the undercover agent, Bolton-born Mr Ali was told he could test the ricin on a rodent, the court heard.

The phone found at Mr Ali's flat was also used for search for "Liverpool pet shop" and had a note saying "get pet to murder".

Ms Howes QC told jurors Mr Ali admits contacting the undercover agent and ordering the "ricin".

'Perfect poison'

Ricin is a naturally-occurring substance found in the seeds of the castor oil plant.

It was described in court as "the poisoner's perfect poison" because its symptoms are non-specific and it does not show up in a post-mortem examination.

A 100 mg dose is enough to kill up to 280 people within three to five days if ingested or injected while 500 mg can kill between 700 and 1,400 people, said Ms Howes QC.

In Mr Ali's defence, she said, he is likely to claim he wanted to experiment with and understand the workings of the "dark web" and to see if he could buy ricin out of curiosity.

His claim that he wanted to posses the poison for "peaceful purposes", but the Crown say the duration and nature of his internet searches contradict this.

The defence will also rely on an assessment that Mr Ali has personality traits associated with Asperger's Syndrome to explain his conduct, Ms Howes QC said.

Police have found no evidence that Mr Ali, who denies attempting to possess a chemical weapon between 10 January and 12 February, has any association with terrorist activities or organisations.

The trial, which is expected to last for two weeks, continues.

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