Sharing a pot of tea in a sweltering jail cell in Syria with one of the world’s most ruthless terrorists was one of the creepiest experiences imaginable.
Alexanda Kotey grinned at us as he described watching video of Brit hostage Ken Bigley being beheaded in Iraq for “entertainment”.
This week, in a court in Virginia, USA, the Londoner admitted being part of the “Beatles” IS terror group, and to charges relating to the kidnap and torture of four Americans which led to their murders.
The families of James Foley, Kayla Mueller, Steven Sotloff and Peter Kassig were in the courtroom to hear Kotey, 37, admit to eight charges.
Rowan Griffiths \\ Daily Mirror)
His guilty pleas were part of a deal that means he will never be free, but spares him execution and gives him the chance of leaving one of America’s toughest jails and returning to the UK after 15 years.
Two years ago, myself and Mirror photographer Rowan Griffiths witnessed Kotey’s cold-hearted disregard for IS victims.
He boasted of saving the life of “Jihadi John” Mohammed Emwazi, who he had dragged badly-wounded out of a battle with another terror faction.
Emwazi, a fellow Londoner, went on to become IS beheader-in-chief.
But to Kotey the beheadings were nothing.
He told me: “It’s not something that overshadows my memories of him. They were powerful messages, but they were very short, two minutes of his life.”
He even confessed to weeping when Emwazi was killed in a drone strike in 2015. Shafee el-Sheikh, 32, also alleged to be one of the Beatles, who got their nickname due to their British accents, is scheduled to go on trial in the US in January.
Yesterday, James Foley’s mother Diane was desperately hoping Kotey’s guilty pleas might lead to the discovery of her son’s remains.
But she said: “I didn’t get any indication he’s interested, but I hope in time he might – just because the extent of the evil.
“I just don’t know how any soul could live with all that. All of us would like to know where the remains of our children are.”
Mrs Foley said she was “glad” Kotey had pleaded guilty.
She said: “It is my hope he will spend the rest of his life behind bars. I almost think a quick martyrdom is too easy a way out.”