Samantha Lewthwaite is a notorious British fugitive featured on Netflix’s World’s Most Wanted docu-series. One of the episodes focuses on Lewthwaite, who is sometimes known by her Muslim name Sherafiyah Lewthwaite or by her nickname the White Widow. She is considered one of the West’s most wanted terrorism suspects and is said to be responsible for over 400 deaths.
She is believed to be a key member of the al-Shabaab terror organization, with one security chief saying: “This lady sits at the right hand of the leader directing attacks.” Interpol issued a red notice arrest warrant for Lewthwaite in 2013 on behalf of Kenya.
Despite an international warrant out for her arrest and her high profile as a fugitive, the 36-year-old Lewthwaite has not been captured. She is believed to have multiple identities and may have undergone plastic surgery to change her appearance. Here’s what you need to know:
She Became Radicalized as a Young Woman & After Becoming a Suicide Bomber’s Widow, She Left England
Lewthwaite was born Samantha Lousie Lewthwaite on December 5, 1983, in Banbridge, County Down, U.K. She had a quiet and normal childhood in Aylesbury and is remembered as a “bright and popular” student in school, but after her parents’ divorce she became more withdrawn and she began spending more time with a local Muslim family.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that by the age of 15, the Christian-born Lewthwaite had converted to Islam, taking the name Sherafiyah and wearing a hijab. She met her future husband, Germaine Lindsay, in an internet chat room and by October 2002, the two were married. Their first child, a son, was born in April 2004.
On July 7, 2005, Lindsay was one of the suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bomb attacks, killing himself along with 26 civilians. Lewthwaite was eight months pregnant at the time and publicly condemned the attacks. However, soon afterward she left England and she has since been linked by intelligence services to numerous terror attacks and plots in East Africa. According to the Telegraph, security services in 200 countries are on the hunt for Lewthwaite.
Her Whereabouts Aren’t Known But She Was Last Believed to Be Living in Yemen
In July 2008, she was seen in Johannesburg, South Africa, where she began working in IT at a halaal pie factory. She was last spotted there in 2011, after which she was seen in Tanzania, then Kenya. Although there are no charges against her in the U.K., she is wanted in Kenya on charges of being in possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit a felony and there is an international warrant out for her arrest. It’s unclear where exactly she is today but a 2014 report placed her in Somalia.
Somali security forces told the Telegraph that although she’s moved up the ranks in al-Shabaab, the net is tightening around her. An unnamed source told the outlet, “She does not carry out attacks herself as she is too important but is responsible for many, many deaths — hundreds. She uses children to kill for her after giving money to their families.” The source continued:
We share all our information with British agents here in Mogadishu. They are here to keep an eye on the lady and other Britons in Somalia….The SAS are ready to get her or we are ready to call in a drone strike against her. We will get her eventually.
In 2018, British security services reported that Lewthwaite was hiding in Yemen under the protection of al-Shabaab militants. A source told the Daily Mail that she recently visited Dubai and may be planning new terror attacks. She is reported to be a major recruiter for al-Shabaab, recruiting young male and female suicide bombers and teaching them how to make suicide vests.
The same report indicates that she may have taken steps to drastically change her appearance, including gaining a lot of weight and undergoing plastic surgery.