PERHAPS the most remarkable thing about “Jihadi John”, the world’s most wanted man, is just how ordinary he actually is.
“Jihadi John” – the barbaric executioner of Western hostages held in Syria – has been unmasked as a computer studies graduate, who grew up in a leafy and affluent suburb of west London.
His real name is Mohammed Emwazi, the eldest of six children, who took pride in his appearance, wore nice clothes, and appears – on the face of it at least – to have been a diligent student.
He does not even have a criminal record.
Nevertheless, over the course of six years following his graduation, Emwazi undertook a journey that transformed him from benign teenager to the most demonic of killers, a blood-thirsty murderer whose beheading of hostages – including Britons David Haines and Alan Henning – was broadcast to the world in propaganda videos for the Islamic State.
His parents Jasem, 51, and Ghaneya, 47, came to London in 1993 in the aftermath of the first Gulf War.
Mohammed Emwazi was just six and he arrived in the UK with his parents and a younger sister Asma, now a young architect, with a bright future ahead of her.
But during those early years, the family were happily ensconced in west London, in an area bordering David Cameron’s famously wealthy and influential Notting Hill set. The family moved a fair bit, Emwazi undergoing something of a peripatetic upbringing, repeatedly swapping one rented property for another in the Maida Vale area, one of the most expensive areas in the country.
The Emwazi children – four born in the UK – were educated at the local secondary Quintin Kynaston, a popular and successful academy.
The school refused to confirm if Mohammed Emwazi had attended, with a spokesman declining to comment, but postings on the internet show his siblings certainly went there and did well.
Emwazi, as a teenager, seemed to have no gripe with his life growing up in the West. One schoolfriend from Quintin Kynaston, speaking anonymously, because he feared just knowing “Jihadi John” would damage his career, said Emwazi was a “typical north-west London boy”.
The friend went on: “He seemed like a nice guy. He seemed confident in the way he carried himself but didn’t really show himself off.
“He seemed like a down-toearth person and humble. He liked football and he was friends with everyone.
“All the Indian boys, all the Pakistani boys, people from different religions, he spoke to everyone. I don’t think he was particularly religious at the time.”
One of Emwazi’s former teachers said: “He was a diligent hard-working lovely young man, responsible, quiet. He was everything you could want a student to be.
“I’m just absolutely shocked that appears to be him. It’s just a 100 miles away from where I thought he’d be. “It makes you wonder what can happen in the years when you don’t see these young people.
“It’s really scary. He was religious and I think as he got older he did become more devout. He would go to the mosque and pray, but then a lot of the kids did that.
“There was never any indication of any violence at all.
Emwazi did well enough at his A-Levels to gain a place on the computer programming course at the University of Westminster in 2006. The university has, along with other further education institutions, faced questions about the links between its student union and extremists.
Four years ago, for example, a student connected to the radical group Hizb utTahrir was elected as president of the University of Westminster’s union. Security services will have been looking at any possibility that Emwazi became radicalised while at college. The university issued a statement appalled at its association with him.
“A Mohammed Emwazi left the University six years ago,” said a spokesman. “If these allegations are true, we are shocked and sickened by the news.
“Our thoughts are with the victims and their families.”