|Classmates: Emwazi (front row, second from left) pictured with classmates at the St Mary Magdalene Church of England primary school in west London. Friends described him as football-mad and popular|
Smiling at the camera with his church school friends, there is nothing to link this middle-class schoolboy to the merciless terrorist butcher Jihadi John. Arriving in Britain when he was six years old, Kuwaiti-born Mohammed Emwazi appeared to embrace British life, playing football in the affluent streets of West London while supporting Manchester United. Neighbours recalled a polite, quietly spoken boy who was studious at his Church of England school, where he was the only Muslim pupil in his class.
In a chilling twist, in a school yearbook from when he was 10, Emwazi lists his favourite computer game as shooting game "Duke Nukem: Time To Kill" and his favourite book as "How To Kill A Monster" from the popular children's Goosebumps series. He also lists his favourite band as pop group S Club 7, and when asked what he wants to be when he is 30, writes: 'I will be in a football team and scoring a goal.' Emwazi also listed his favourite colour as blue, his favourite animal as a monkey, his favourite cartoon as The Simpsons and chips as his favourite food.
His role as Islamic State’s sadistic butcher was a far cry from the football-mad schoolboy who moved to Britain from Kuwait with his parents in 1993. Given a council flat overlooking the Regents Canal in the exclusive Little Venice area of West London, his father found work as a minicab and delivery van driver while mother stayed at home with Mohammed and his two younger sisters now 25 and 23.
Three more children followed, all born after the family settled in Britain, and the family were said to be close, with both parents arriving at the school gate each day to collect their children. His family are not being named to protect their privacy. Former classmates at St Mary Magdalene said Emwazi had got into occasional fights after school assemblies, but said he was usually reserved and dedicated to his religion.
From angel to devil: Mohammed Emwazi (left) pictured as a schoolboy in London. Today, he was revealed as the man behind the 'Jihadi John' mask (right)
One former classmate said: ‘It was a Church of England school and he was the only Muslim in our class. One time we had an RE lesson and he got up and talked about his religion. ‘He wrote Arabic on the board to show us what it looked like and how it went in the other direction. He showed us a religious text and spoke about what his religion was about.
‘That was when we were eight or nine. He mentioned fasting. His English wasn’t very good throughout primary school. He could only say a few words at first – like his name and where he was from. ‘He played football every lunchtime and at the after-school football club. Through football, he learned different words and expressions. Like all the guys, he always wanted to be the striker. ‘He wasn’t so good in school, he was the bottom half of the class, but he was one of the sporty guys. He was popular.’
After finishing primary school in 1999, young Mohammed moved to Quintin Kynaston Community Academy, in St John’s Wood, where he is believed to have studied alongside former X Factor judge and pop star Tulisa Contostavlos.
|Horrifying: Jihadi John has featured in the execution videos of American journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff, aid workers Alan Hennings and David Haines, 22 Syrian soldiers and Japanese journalist Kenji Goto (pictured)|
Once there, he became more observant of his religion and began wearing more traditional Islamic dress, and his sisters began to wear the hijab. One younger sister, now 19, was a prefect at the school and completed a detailed ‘murder mystery’ film project about a female serial killer. Teachers said Mohammed was still ‘diligent, hard-working…everything you would want a student to be’ and neighbours said he was ‘like any other teenager’.
It was only after he won a place studying computing at the University of Westminster that his behaviour began to change. The university has since been linked with several proponents of radical Islam, and Emwazi appeared to have fallen under their sway. He began attending different mosques and was known to associate with Bilal el-Berjawi, who was killed by a drone strike in Somalia three years ago.
|Unmasked: ISIS executioner 'Jihadi John', pictured here with American journalist Steven Sotloff, has been identified as Mohammed Emwazi from London. Sotloff's family have called for him to be caught and tried|
In August 2009, after his graduation, Emwazi flew to Tanzania in East Africa with friends and told authorities they were going on a wildlife safari. But the group was refused entry and put on a plane to the Netherlands, where Emwazi later claimed he was questioned by an MI5 agent called Nick. The British officer accused him of planning to travel to Somalia to join the militant group Al Shabaab, he said, and said MI5 had been watching him. Emwazi denied the accusation – bragging that he would not take a designer Rocawear sweater in his luggage if he was planning to join Somalian rebels.