In Bronzefield Women’s Prison, Ashford, Tammy Bishop was conveying her good news to her psychiatrist Ali al-Sayed. It was late Friday afternoon, 12 April. She’d been baring her soul to him for months.
He travelled all the way from Cherrywood on a fortnightly basis to listen. And he followed everything about her past, picked up on everything instantaneously. Her work for ISIS. What went on with the prisoners. The bullying and backstabbing. He’d absorbed every small detail. They’d even become rather buddy-buddy. And he wore well-tailored suits, très hot.
She knew the moment she saw his face drop he’d not taken the announcement of her early release well. So why had she told him? Because she thought he was an ally, that’s why. Hadn’t he helped to get her freed?
The officers advised the inmates not to let on to anyone if they were given an early release. Prisoners had a nose for news. It travelled to the wrong people quickly. But she’d never thought that would apply to him. His reaction to it had been unexpected. He was being a bloody pain.
Now her stomach was in knots. There was a clattering from outside the room and a jangling of keys. But inside all was silent. She hated that.
‘I want you to tell me exactly what you will do with yourself when you leave here.’ There was a tightness in his eyes.
‘I’m bursting to talk about it. I’ve got loads and loads of ideas.’
The above is an excerpt from my political thriller The Killing of the Cherrywood MP and those ideas include her fantasy of becoming a reality TV star. But it could easily be the story of Shamima Begum, who left Britain to join the terror group in February 2015 and could shortly be back here plotting her future.
Ms Begum lived under Islamic State rule for more than three years before she was found, nine months pregnant, at the al-Hol refugee camp in Syria in February last year. Three of her babies died. She told reporters she didn’t regret joining ISIS, but begged to be rescued and brought back to the UK.
Those in favour of her return say that she was a child when she left the country to join ISIS; that she has renounced it, and that she is not a security risk.
Those against believe she is a threat to national security; that she is unlikely to face prosecution in the British courts if she is allowed back and that she will become a pin-up for Islamist extremism if this happens. A conundrum indeed.