A former RAF gunner from Manchester who served in the Iraq war will be jailed for terrorism offences after trying to join Islamic State (Isis) twice. Stephen Gray, who converted to Islam taking the name Mustafa Gray, admitted attempting to reach Syria on two separate occasions in July 2014.
The 32-year-old served as a gunner in No 2 Squadron of the RAF Regiment tasked with protecting airfields and aircraft in and around the Iraqi capital of Baghdad in 2004. Gray had been born to Christian parents and converted to Islam after serving in the British military.
The court heard how he had his own cleaning company and two wives who also live in Manchester before he planned to head to Syria to fight with Daesh (Isis) or the al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra.
According to prosecutors, Gray was using a contact in Syria who he had met at a university in Egypt, to try and get him to by air via Turkey and overground across Europe. In November 2014 he was arrested at Manchester Airport and pleaded guilty at Woolwich Crown Court to preparing to commit acts of terrorism, assisting another in committing acts of terrorism and funding terrorism.
The court had heard that on 5 July 2014, Gray was refused entry to Syria via the Turkish border and was sent back to Rome where he had flown from. Gray's friend, Ray Matimba, who had travelled with him from Manchester did get across the border into Syria.
On 8 July, Gray boarded a Eurostar train from St Pancras Station London to Brussels and then made his way by road to Bulgaria to the Turkish border where he was arrested after a tip off by counter terrorism police in the UK.
His guilty verdict could not have been reported before now as, Abdalraouf Abdallah, 23, from Moss Side, was on trial accused of helping Gray and three others get to Syria to join Isis. The pair had met seven or eight years earlier after playing football together.
Abdallah was of of being "at the centre of a jihadist network facilitating foreign fighters" and the court heard how he had sent £2,000 to his brother, Mohammed Abdallah, for terrorist purposes. Mohammed was said to have gone to Syria in June 2014 and planned to meet Gray when he arrived.
Abdallah, a Libyan refugee, came to the UK with his family in 1993, and insisted he was acting as a "Royal Mail messenger" passing information between his friends and brother. He was found guilty of preparation of acts of terrorism and funding terrorism. Judge Christopher Kinch warned according to the Manchester Evening News: "a prison sentence is going to follow in light of the jury's verdicts."