Previous: Beyond The Pale
He flipped through the pages until he found the entry he sought. "Ah, here we are," he said. "Rashid Rauf, a British Muslim of Pakistani descent, was born in Birmingham in 1979. He fled to Pakistan in 2002 after the fatal stabbing of his uncle. Reportedly he was questioned by police in connection with that crime, but was released and allowed to leave the country.
"He fled to Pakistan, where his ancestral family live, and married a daughter, or a niece -- sources differ -- of Maulana Masood Azhar, the founder and spiritual leader of J-e-M. That's 'Jaish-e-Mohammed', or in English, 'the Army of God', a terrorist group who have made their name by bombing passenger trains in India and Kashmir."
"Lovely chaps," I said.
"Indeed," said Holmes. "Rauf apparently returned to England and was reportedly questioned and released again -- this time in connection with the July 2005 tube-and-bus bombings here in London which killed 52 people. Again he was allowed to leave the country and again he found his way to Pakistan.
"The following summer he was fingered as the mastermind of the plan to bomb transatlantic jets, the so-called 'Liquid Bombers' plot, which, as you have just discovered, Gareth Williams may have helped to foil.
"Rauf was later implicated in the 'Easter Bombers' plot, which was broken up by a series of dramatic arrests in Manchester and Liverpool in April of 2009. He was also implicated in a number of other terror plots on the Continent, all of which, to the best of my knowledge, were detected in time to prevent any carnage.
"Rauf was arrested in 2006 in Pakistan, in connection with the arrest of the 'Liquid Bombers.' The charges against him were dropped, reinstated, and dropped again, but he was never officially released from prison. Instead he escaped from police custody under very suspicious circumstances, while en route to a court appearance in 2007."
"Do you think they deliberately let him go?" I asked.
"Apparently the Pakistani government thought so," said Holmes. "Some of the policemen who were supposed to be guarding him were arrested in connection with his escape, but to the best of my knowledge, they were never prosecuted. For his part, Rauf disappeared, allegedly into the wild tribal lands of Waziristan, where he was supposedly killed by a drone missile attack in November of 2008."
"Supposedly?" I asked.
"His demise was claimed but not proven," replied the detective. "His remains were never returned to his family, and their request for proof of his death was ignored by the Pakistani government."
"Are we sure about all this?" I asked, half in jest. "You couldn't ask for a murkier story."
"It certainly is murky," agreed my friend, "and that's just the outline. Fortunately we are well-stocked with details."
"How so?" I asked.
"Our files," said Holmes, "contain many clippings pertaining to the 'Liquid Bombers,' and many more on the 'Easter Bombers,' both of which held my attention for quite some time. I collected as many articles as I could, sometimes without even reading them, on the hunch that they might turn out to be important. But I have never had a reason to use them, and as a result they probably contain many details of which I am unaware.
"We also have a smattering of information about the 2005 London bombings and some of the Continental plots with which Rauf was allegedly involved. I can't say how much of this material will be useful to us now, but it's all there if we need it."
"I can spend some time reading through those files," I said, "if you think it will help."
"I don't see how it could hurt," replied Sherlock Holmes. "I'd be especially interested in anything you can find about the coded emails to and from Rashid Rauf which Gareth Williams was reportedly reading."
"I'll do what I can, Holmes," I said. "I'm beginning to get weary, but I can start tomorrow."
"Would you mind doing some shopping tomorrow as well?" the detective asked. "I can give you a list of the supplies we will need for our experiments."
"I'll be happy to help with that," I said. Then, reflecting on what I had just offered to do and why, I felt a shudder of revulsion run up and down my spine. It wasn't the first, nor would it be the last.