AN Aylesbury mother, and widow of one of the 7/7 suicide bombers, has been thrust into the spotlight amid allegations of terrorist links.
Police in Kenya say they are hunting mum-of-three Samantha Lewthwaite, 28, who was married to notorious killer Jermaine Lindsay, one of four men behind the London bombings of 2005.
This week Aylesbury’s top policeman said they have been supporting Miss Lewthwaite’s family, and monitoring the impact on the community.
The widow has been linked with running bomb-making tutorials, and an alleged plot to blow up shopping centres and hotels in Kenya over Christmas and New Year.
It has also been claimed that she was living in a house in Mombasa, which yielded an arsenal of bomb-making equipment when it was raided by police.
But people in Aylesbury have been urged not to jump to conclusions.
Councillor Raj Khan, who knew Miss Lewthwaite, told the Herald: “I’m a believer in innocent until proven guilty.
“I knew Samantha personally – the last time I saw her was four or five years ago.
“I don’t think these crimes have any resemblance to the Samantha I knew, she was a very loving mother. There’s a saying ‘once burned, twice shy’, I can’t imagine someone who’s been affected by such horrific crimes would follow suit.”
He continued: “I’ve had members of the community ring up saying they’re worried about the welfare of Samantha.
“They’re worried she’s being witch-hunted because of her past.”
He said Miss Lewthwaite was ‘wrecked’ by her husband’s actions.
Mr Khan continued: “We will not accept any form of terrorism, because it’s not only against the law, it’s against Islam.
“But this allegation needs to be substantiated before we can judge.”
Scotland Yard has confirmed it is working with Kenyan Police in the search.
A spokeswoman told the Herald: “We continue to liaise with the Kenyan authorities, we’re not saying anything further than that, it’s an operation that’s being led by the Kenyan police.”
This week Superintendent George Wrigley, Aylesbury’s most senior police officer, said his officers had not been called to help with the manhunt.
But he said police had been supporting Miss Lewthwaite’s family, who still live in the town.
Mr Wrigley stated: “The only local assistance we have provided is to assist her family who have been the focus of media attention following the story breaking last week, as well as working with the local community for whom this story is not welcome news.”
Miss Lewthwaite’s family declined to comment on the allegations when the Herald visted her father’s home.
But builder dad Andy Lewthwaite was quoted in The Sun newspaper stating: “Samantha would not be involved in anything to do with terrorism.
“She was badly affected by what happened before and would have nothing to do with it. I am sure of that.”
Councillor Niknam Hussain, who heads the independent advisory group, which supports police in the Vale, said: “My understanding at the time was that police had no interest in her, and she was as shocked as anyone else.
“The family has suffered enough.
“Until this is confirmed one way or the other, there isn’t much more we can say.”
Officials in Kenya say Miss Lewthwaite was most recently using the name Natalie Faye Webb and carrying a forged South African passport.
She lived in Northern Road, Aylesbury, with husband Jermaine, who killed 26 people when he detonated a bomb between King’s Cross and Russell Square.