How the ‘popular’ schoolboy turned into a ‘deranged’ killer

How the 'popular' schoolboy turned into a 'deranged' killer

FORMER classmates and friends of Khalid Masood – who grew up in Tunbridge Wells – have spoken of their ‘shock’ at hearing how the youngster they knew turned into ‘a deranged individual’ who became one of Britain’s most notorious terrorists.

Last week the 52-year-old killed three people and left 50 injured after he ploughed a car into pedestrians along London’s Westminster Bridge before storming through the Parliamentary estate and stabbing Pc Keith Palmer. He was then fatally shot by armed police.

Tonbridge MP Tom Tugendhat, writing in his regular column for the Times , said:

“Britons recognised the violence for what it truly was – the solitary act of a man who represented no one but himself.  A deranged individual whose inspiration may have been religious but whose understanding was satanic. The terror failed, as it always will.”

The man behind the act of terror was a former pupil of Huntleys Secondary School for Boys between 1976-81 has dismayed many who knew him.

One school friend, Kenton Till, recalled how he and Masood, who at that time was known as Adrian Ajao, were ‘quite close for a few years.’

Khalid Masood

“Adrian was a good footballer, one of the best players in the school. He was one of those kids who was very popular,” he said. “He had a big personality and everyone liked him.”

Masood is understood to have been give the nickname ‘Vampire’ while he was at the school, which was situated on Culverden Down before closing down in 1992. But despite Masood’s evident bloodlust later on in life, those who went to school with him said there was nothing untoward about the teenager.

Fellow pupil Stuart Knight, said: “He was a very nice guy, down to earth, liked by everyone around him. There was nothing unassuming about him, he was a very good sportsman and his mother was a Christian.”

Mr Knight, a Director of Southborough Butchers, added: “He was well-liked and had a lot of friends. He was one of only two black people out of 600 children. In those days there weren’t many black people in the area.

“I don’t know if he had girlfriends but he did party very well, he liked to have a good time.

“I am really shocked. I spent five years in his class at school, for him it’s totally out of character.

“I am in shock – that is not sympathy for what he has done, he was a nice guy and I’m surprised he turned and did what he did.”

“It is shocking to think he comes from this nice, quiet neighbourhood. But it is the age we live in, with the internet it can happen with people from anywhere.”

Alan Doone, 75, who has lived opposite Masood’s former home in St James’ Park since 1967 said: “I remember the father, a short and stocky man, I used say hello to him in passing.

“It is shocking to think he comes from this nice, quiet neighbourhood. But it is the age we live in, with the internet it can happen with people from anywhere.”

During his time in Tunbridge Wells the would-be-terrorist had far more teenage aspirations on his mind and is said to have wanted to be a rock star. With a voice like that of ‘Marvin Gaye’, he fronted various bands, all of which reflected his front-man status, such as Alternative AD and Revelation AD.

Journalist John Sturgis, a class mate of Masood’s younger brother Paul, told the media: “The AD was short for Adrian and reflected, none too subtly, that he was the star and the others on stage were just his backing band.”

Another old school friend Graham Walmsley recollects a young man who was not shy of the opposite sex.

Speaking to the Sunday Times Mr Walmsley said: “He had two or three girlfriends. Next door was an all girl’s school. At lunch times you would go down to the woods and see how many you could pull.”

Masood’s wild side was elaborated on by classmate Mark Ashdown in a separate newspaper interview.

“We grew up together, partying all night – drink drugs, sex, the lot. We lived for weekend raves.”

But while most of his classmates would eventually leave the days of teenage excess behind, Masood continued his love of drugs and grew increasingly violent.

He became known to the police because of a string of convictions including assault, GBH and possession of an offensive weapon. His first conviction was for criminal damage in 1983 when he was 18.

A general view of the Crown and Thistle pub (since renamed The Muddy Duck) in Northiam.

Then in 2000 he cut Piers Mott across the face with a knife in an argument outside the Crown and Thistle pub in Northiam. It was later renamed The Muddy Duck – and closed two years ago.

The 35-year-old defendant, who was then going by the name Adrian Elms, was jailed for two years at Hove Crown Court after admitting charges of unlawful wounding and criminal damage.

It is understood it was during this time in Lewes prison that he converted to Islam, although there is no suggestion he was radicalised at this time.

He would return to prison again not long after his release for six months for possession of an offensive weapon after he was accused of stabbing a man in Eastbourne.

After prison, Masood began to move around the country on a frequent basis, living for two years after 2010 in Luton, which by then was being regularly visited by the hate preacher Anjem Choudary.

He later moved to Forest Gate in East London where he would attend a mosque in nearby Leyton, before moving to a block of flats at Quayside in Winson Green, Birmingham last year.

On the evening Tuesday March 21, Masood had booked himself into a cheap hotel in Brighton.

When leaving the hotel the following morning he told staff, “I am off to London today,” adding the capital “isn’t like it used to be.” They had no idea of the terrible acts he was about to commit.


Mayor David Neve

“Events like this strengthen the sense of community.To think someone like that lived here is shocking but at the time he was just a regular person, like you or I. It is the process of radicalisation that did it.”

“I don’t see how it will change the town’s image. Tunbridge Wells will move on and Tunbridge Wells will prosper. People will go on about their daily lives.”


Time line


  • Masood was born Adrian Russell Elms in Dartford on Christmas Day 1964 to 17-year-old Janet.


  • His mother married a man with the surname Ajao in 1966, a surname later adopted by Masood during his time in Tunbridge Wells where he attended the now-closed Huntelys Secondary School for Boys.


  • After leaving he was embroiled in a string of minor offences but appeared to settle down in the mid 1990’s with Jane Harvey – the mother of two of his daughters. They would go on to live in Northiam.


  • Following his assault on publican Piers Mott in 2000, Masood was jailed for two years and is believed to have converted to Isalm. Upon release he would move to Eastbourne where he was said to have been using steroids and cocaine.


  • In 2003 he would stab another man in the face and was returned to prison for six months. During his life he would spend time in three prisons HMP Lewis, Waylands and Ford.


  • In 2004 he would marry a woman of Pakistani-heritage and reside in Crawley. Between this time and 2008 he would twice spend several months in Saudi Arabia teaching English.

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