London attacker had drug in his system before deadly ramage, inquest told

LONDON (Reuters) - The man who mowed down pedestrians on London's Westminster Bridge before killing a police officer outside Britain's parliament last year had taken steroids beforehand, a London court heard on Monday.

Last March Khalid Masood, 52, killed four people on the bridge before, armed with two carving knives, he stabbed to death an unarmed police officer in the grounds of parliament. He was shot dead at the scene.

It was the first of five attacks on Britain last year which police blamed on terrorism.

A submission to a pre-inquest hearing into the fatalities at London's Old Bailey Court said there was evidence that Masood had taken anabolic steroids in the hours or days before his death.

"A more specialist pharmaceutical toxicologist ... has been instructed to prepare a report addressing how steroid use may have affected Khalid Masood," the submission by the inquiry's lawyer Jonathan Hough said.

The hearing also heard from Gareth Patterson, a lawyer representing relatives of four of the victims, who lambasted tech firms over their stance on encryption and failing to remove radicalizing material from websites.

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Tributes to the victims of the London Bridge attack
A bunch of flowers with a message of sympathy is seen near Borough Market after an attack left 7 people dead and dozens injured in London, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
A bunch of flowers is left near London Bridge after an attack left 7 people dead and dozens injured in London, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Dylan Martinez
Participants of the Riviera Water Bike Challenge in support of the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation, observe a minute of silence in tribute to the victims of the London attack in Nice, France June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Eric Gaillard
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 04: A woman holds a sign reading 'ISIS Will Lose. Love Will Win', following last night's London terror attack, on June 4, 2017 in London, England. Prime Minister Theresa May has left the election campaign trail to hold a meeting of the emergency response committee, Cobra, this morning following a terror attack in central London on Saturday night. 7 people were killed and at least 48 injured in terror attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market. Three attackers were shot dead by armed police. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The Brandenburg Gate is illuminated with the colours of the British flag to show solidarity with the victims of the recent attack in London, in Berlin, Germany June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Christian Mang TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 04: Posters reading 'ISIS Will Lose. Love Will Win', are seen on a map of the area, following last night's London terror attack, on June 4, 2017 in London, England. Prime Minister Theresa May has left the election campaign trail to hold a meeting of the emergency response committee, Cobra, this morning following a terror attack in central London on Saturday night. 7 people were killed and at least 48 injured in terror attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market. Three attackers were shot dead by armed police. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
The aftermath of the London Bridge terror attack is seen in London on June 4, 2017. Police forensics officers work on London Bridge. Seven people have been killed in central London after three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge, before launching a knife attack on people around Borough Market. Flowers have also been put near the bridge to commemorate the victims. (Photo by Alberto Pezzali/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 04: A police officer looks at a floral tribute left by a man near the scene of last night's terrorist attack on June 4, 2017 in London, England. Police continue to cordon off an area after responding to terrorist attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market where 7 people were killed and at least 48 injured last night. Three attackers were shot dead by armed police. (Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 04: A woman speaks to a female police officer as she carries flowers to London Bridge, the scene of last night's terror attack on June 4, 2017 in London, England. Police continue to cordon off an area after responding to terrorist attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market where 7 people were killed and at least 48 injured last night. Three attackers were shot dead by armed police. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
A minutes silence is observed for the victims of the London terror attack, before the ICC Champions Trophy, Group B match at Edgbaston, Birmingham.
MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - JUNE 04: The Manchester United '08 XI take part in a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the terror attacks in Manchester and London ahead of the Michael Carrick Testimonial match between Manchester United and Michael Carrick All-Stars at Old Trafford on June 4, 2017 in Manchester, England. (Photo by John Peters/Man Utd via Getty Images)
Women leave flowers near Borough Market after an attack left 7 people dead and dozens injured in London, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Flowers and messages lie behind police cordon tape near Borough Market after an attack left 7 people dead and dozens injured in London, Britain, June 4, 2017. REUTERS/Peter Nicholls
Floral tributes are laid near Borough Market in London following Saturday's terrorist attack.
A poster near Borough Market in London following Saturday's terrorist attack.
A woman lays a bouquet of flowers at a pedestrian crossing by Borough market in London on June 5, 2017. British police on Monday made several arrests in two dawn raids following the June 3 London attacks, claimed by the Islamic State group which left seven people dead. / AFP PHOTO / Justin TALLIS (Photo credit should read JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 05: A commuter looks at some of the floral tributes on London Bridge after it was reopened following the June 3rd terror attack on June 5, 2017 in London, England. Seven people were killed and at least 48 injured in terror attacks on London Bridge and Borough Market. Three attackers were shot dead by armed police. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
A message reading 'Peace for London' sits on flowers left at the scene, following Saturday night's terror attack, in London, U.K., on Monday, June 5, 2017. Police are stepping up drills and security on the streets as the challenge facing them continues to shift.� Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg via Getty Images
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Patterson said families wanted answers about how Masood, who was known to the UK security service MI5, was radicalized and why shortly before his attack, he was able to share an extremist document via WhatsApp.

He said victims' relatives could not understand "why it is that radicalizing material continues to be freely available on the internet".

"We do not understand why it's necessary for WhatsApp, Telegram and these sort of media applications to have end-to-end encryption," he told the hearing at London's Old Bailey court.

Patterson told Reuters following the hearing that he was "fed up" of prosecuting terrorism cases which featured encryption and particularly the WhatsApp messaging service.

"How many times do we have to have this?" he said.

The British government has been pressurizing companies to do more to remove extremist content and rein in encryption which they say allows terrorists and criminals to communicate without being monitored by police and spies, while also making it hard for the authorities to track them down.

However, it has met quiet resistance from tech leaders like Facebook, Google and Twitter and critics say ending encryption will weaken security for legitimate actions and open a back door for government snooping.

Samantha Leek, the British government's lawyer, said the issues over encryption and radicalization were a matter of public policy and too wide for an inquest to consider.

Police say Masood had planned and carried out his attack alone, despite claims of responsibility from Islamic State, although a report in December confirmed he was known to MI5 for associating with extremists, particularly between 2010 and 2012, but not considered a threat.

Coroner Mark Lucraft said the inquest, which will begin in September, would seek to answer "obvious and understandable questions" the families might have.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; editing by Guy Faulconbridge)

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