A picture of Mohammed Emwazi as a devout teenage Muslim and middle-ranking student was emerging shortly after Sky News published the first adult photograph of the 26-year-old unmasked as Jihadi John.

Neighbours said Emwazi prayed up five times a day at his local mosque close to his home in west London before he enrolled at Westminster University from where he emerged three years later with a 2:2 degree. Course records showed he failed one of his modules and scraped through his other courses with low marks.

Speaking fluent Arabic and with computer skills, the radicalised Emwazi would have been useful for the Islamic State propaganda machine and appears to have put his skills to use to reduce his online footprint. But the process that led from him as unremarkable student to Islamic State poster boy for brutality remained unclear as neighbours said they were mystified to learn of what had happened to him.

“We never saw him with any group or doing anything wrong in the area,” said cab driver Sharaft Ullah, 42, a worshipper at the Harrow Road Mosque close to the Emwazi family home. “He was a strict Muslim, coming to the mosque.”

On completing his degree he travelled to Tanzania for what he claimed was a holiday but was detained and sent back to Britain where he was quizzed about his political and religious beliefs.

Court documents suggested Emwazi’s group included Ibrahim Magag, a Somali-born Briton, who eluded MI5 and police to flee the country on Boxing Day 2012. Under a system of control orders, he moved to the west of England to take him away from the group known as “The London Boys”, a group of fixers for al-Shabab extremists in Somalia.

But he was allowed to return to London under a new monitoring programme introduced by the Government in December 2011 that ended the relocation rule.

He fled the country just before Emwazi is thought to have left for Syria in 2013.

More: What you need to know about the man identified as Jihadi John

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