Samantha Lewthwaite is a British terror suspect and fugitive featured on Netflix’s World’s Most Wanted docu-series. One of the episodes focuses on Lewthwaite, who is also known as Sherafiyah Lewthwaite or the White Widow. The Telegraph reported that Somali security chiefs said she is responsible for over 400 deaths as of May 2015. She is believed to be a member of al-Shabaab and is considered one of the West’s most wanted terrorism suspects. Interpol issued a red notice arrest warrant for Lewthwaite in 2013.
She is believed to have become radicalized as a young girl after her parents’ divorce. She converted to Islam at 15 and met her future husband Germaine Lindsay in an internet chat room. The two got married shortly after in October 2002. The marriage came to an abrupt halt, however, when Lindsay blew himself up in the infamous 7/7 suicide attacks in London on July 7, 2005, killing 26 civilians.
Lewthwaite, who was eight months pregnant with their second child at the time (their first child was 14 months old), publicly condemned the attack, saying: “I totally condemn and am horrified by the atrocities. I never predicted or imagined that he was involved in such horrific activities. He was a loving husband and father.” However, after the attack, she disappeared from England and intelligence services increasingly linked Lewthwaite to terror plots and attacks in East Africa.
Who was Lewthwaite’s first husband, Germaine Lindsay? Here’s what you need to know:
1. Lindsay Was Born in Jamaica & Raised in England By a Single Mother, Who Converted to Islam When He Was a Teenager
Germaine Maurice Lindsay was born in Jamaica on September 23, 1985, but from the age of one, he was raised in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, in England. The Guardian reported that he was the son of a single mother, who had by all appearances a normal childhood. He attended Rawthorpe secondary school and participated in the school’s athletics.
After the attacks, one of his schoolmates said she was shocked: “He was really nice. He was one of those people you never expected to get into trouble. He was just so good. What possessed his soul?” Another classmate described him as “dead brainy,” in the top group of all his exams. However, the BBC also reported that some school friends said after the bombings that Lindsay had expressed racial hatred toward Jews and began distributing al-Qaeda pamphlets at school.
Acquaintances told the Guardian they thought the turning point may have been when his mother, Mariam, converted to Islam and told her son he should consider it too. At the age of 15 or 16, Lindsay changed his name to Abdullah Shaheed Jamal and began wearing traditional Islamic clothing. He had a younger sister, Lauren, who also began wearing a headscarf around that time.
Soon after this, his mother remarried and moved to the U.S., at which point he left school and began working odd jobs, the BBC reported.
2. Lindsay Met Lewthwaite Online & They Were Married Soon After, in October 2002
Lewthwaite first met Lindsay in an Islamic internet chat room and then met in person for the first time at a “Stop the War” march in London. They soon began living together in Huddersfield, where Lindsay worked as a carpet fitter and occasionally sold mobile phone covers at a market, the Guardian wrote. In October 2002, the couple tied the knot, although Lewthwaite’s parents didn’t attend the wedding since they didn’t approve of her religious conversion.
In September 2003, they moved to Aylesbury together, a town in central England where Lewthwaite had spent most of her childhood. In Aylesbury, Lindsay also worked as a carpet fitter but was eventually fired from his job.
Their first child, a boy named Abdullah, was born in April 2004. In late 2004, the BBC reported that Lindsay assaulted Lewthwaite. Shortly before the bombings, the outlet wrote that he attempted to start a relationship with another woman and even asked her if she could procure a gun for him.
According to the Daily Mail, she told friends just days before the attack that she had thrown him out because she believed he was having an affair. Lewthwaite was pregnant with their second child, a daughter, at the time of her husband’s death.
3. Lewthwaite Spoke Up After Lindsay’s Terrorist Attack, Saying It Was ‘Abhorrent’ Before Eventually Disappearing From England With Their 2 Kids
On July 7, 2005, the 19-year-old Lindsay killed himself and 26 passengers on the Picadilly line of the Tube near King’s Cross station. Lindsay was just one of four suicide bombers who targeted the London Underground in a series of coordinated attacks that killed 52 people.
After the attack, Lewthwaite said his actions were “abhorrent” and she believed that his many trips to some more extreme mosques radicalized him. “How these people could have turned him and poisoned his mind is dreadful,” she said. “He was an innocent, naive and simple man. I suppose he must have been an ideal candidate.” Lewthwaite was criticized at the time for selling the exclusive interview for £30,000, the Daily Mail reported.
After the 7/7 attacks, her home was raided by police and soon after it was set ablaze in an arson attack. Lewthwaite was placed in a “safe house” in protective custody, but she disappeared from England soon after this.
4. Lindsay’s Father Spoke Up After the Attacks Saying He Had Recently Started Speaking With His Son Before Lindsay Cut All Contact
For most of his life, Lindsay did not appear to have much contact with his birth father, who remained in Jamaica when the family moved to England. After Lindsay’s terror attacks, his father Nigel told a Jamaican radio station that he was surprised. He said the two had recently begun speaking after many years and his son appeared “quiet and calm.”
Nigel said that in September 2004, his son contacted him out of the blue to find out if he had been affected by a hurricane that had destroyed parts of Jamaica. He said it had been eight years since their last contact but afterward, the two spoke every week until two months before the attacks. “I tried contacting him and didn’t get any answer,” he told Radio Jamaica.
Lindsay told him he’d converted to Islam but Nigel said there was no indication that he was anything but happy with his life. He said, “He seemed like a young man who had got his priorities right. He sounded like he was happy with his life and his religion and gave away no signs that he was up to anything bad. It felt like he was enjoying life and was really on top of things. He was settled with his woman and kid. I thought he was mixing with the right set of people in that religion — people who could guide him along and keep him on the straight.”
5. He Was Believed to Be the Coordinator of the 7/7 Terror Attacks in London
Intelligence sources believe that Lindsay is the one who coordinated the bombers for the 7/7 attacks. According to the Guardian, the other three bombers traveled to Luton to meet Lindsay before going to London, and Lindsay was considered the most senior member of the group. He is thought to have had the necessary connections for the terrorist operation.
One of Lewthwaite’s classmates said he wasn’t too surprised that Lindsay turned out to be a terrorist, telling the Telegraph: “When [Lindsay] first came to the town, I used to do a lot of training with him – he used to do a lot of boxing. He wasn’t right in the head. He always had a violent streak to him. But [Lewthwaite] was all right. She was just a normal girl, I never really thought there was anything unusual about her. I can’t believe she could be involved in this.”