The ISIS killer known as “Jihadi John” was on drugs when he appeared in the video depicting the execution by beheading of British aide worker David Haines, experts who have closely analyzed audio of his speech now believe.
The masked, black-clad ISIS terrorist appears in all three videos that show the beheadings of Western hostages, though because the videos fade out before the actual killings, then fade back in to show the grisly aftermaths of the decapitation murders, investigators are not sure whether the English-speaking, British-accented terrorist actually murdered the hostages himself.
The previous two videos show the beheadings of U.S. journalists James Foley and Steven Sotloff. But in the most recent video, showing the murder of David Haines, the audio experts say that there’s something different about the way the ISIS killer speaks.
In the latest video, Jihadi John appears to be slurring his words, and speaking in a more pressured, higher-pitched tone than in the earlier beheading videos. While the change in tone could indicate that the ISIS terrorist is under additional stress himself, it more likely means that he is under the influence of drugs, the experts told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
Jihadi John’s “distinctive speech patterns” in the video could be the result of chewing khat, an audio analyst told the Mail. Khat is a naturally growing, leafy plant that grows in parts of Africa and the Arabian peninsula. Chewing the leaf releases the substance cathinone, which is similar to amphetamines and is banned in many countries as a controlled substance.
Khat is outlawed in the United States and Britain.
British intelligence services have positively identified “Jihadi John,” and have told U.S. authorities who he is, sources say. But based on voice-recognition analysis, the killer is not believed to be the former London rapper Abdel-Majed Abdel Bary, who was earlier identified in the media as the most likely suspect.
Instead, sources say that the ISIS executioner believed to the leader of a small group of expatriate British citizens who have become ISIS terrorists, was a charity worker who collected money on the streets of London for various Arab groups. Britain’s security service MI5 already had its eye on him before he left the U.K. for Syria to join ISIS, but at the time they considered him basically harmless.
British government authorities, however, told The Daily Telegraph newspaper that the public should not get its hopes up about ever seeing Jihadi John captured and brought to Britain or the United States to face a trial.
Given the volatile situation in Syria, catching the ISIS killer and transporting him back to the West poses an insurmountable task, the British sources said. But killing Jihadi John with a drone airstrike or secret special forces mission remains possible.