ASSAD Sarwar was portrayed by his defence team as a Walter Mitty-type figure, a bumbling character who was too much of a failure in life to conceive of plotting to kill.

He was a “plonker”, a “loser”, a university drop-out who had never had a girlfriend and struggled to dig a hole as part of a plot to frighten - but not kill – through his anger at British foreign policy, jurors were told.

The prosecution, however, painted a picture of a man filled with murderous intent – a key figure in a plot to commit mass murder which jurors said was real but could not be defined.

Prosecutors alleged he plotted to blow up planes in midair – an operation which, if successful, would have seen a death toll rivalled only by the atrocities of 9/11. That today was not proven, jurors concluded.

As the High Wycombe end of the “conspiracy” Sarwar collected chemicals needed to turn seemingly innocent soft drinks into deadly explosives – and researched where and how they would be put into action, prosecutors said.

Yet Sarwar would not carry out the attacks in person Peter Wright QC alleged and did not therefore appear in chilling “martyrdom” videos of six of the men.

This was because Sarwar’s “utility to a global campaign of terrorism was not confined to this blessed operation”.

Mr Wright said: “The horizon in respect of Sarwar's terrorist ambition was limitless.”

Assad Sarwar was born on May 24 1980. One of five children, he was “not good” at school in his studies said Malcolm Bishop QC, defending.

He later “failed” at Brunel University when he dropped out of an earth sciences degree and chalked up a patchy, sporadic CV - ASDA, telecommunications in Birmingham and a job as a postman.

Sarwar told the court he enjoyed the latter but left the Post Office after being moved to a driving job which “got on top” of him, the same justification he gave for leaving education.

Then he met co-defendant Umar Islam at the Muslim Education Centre bookshop in Totteridge Drive, High Wycombe, setting in motion a chain of events that would see him accused of one of the worst acts of terrorism imaginable.

No verdict was today returned on Umar Islam.

Sarwar met Abdulla Ahmed Ali – another “ringleader” – while packing clothes a Islamic Medical Association charity shop in Hackney, London.

He and Islam later met Ali in Karachi, Pakistan in January 2003 while in the country on behalf of IMA to deliver aid to refugees, the court was told.

It was three years later, in January 2006 where, the court was told, they began discussions about the plot after meeting at a lecture held at Azhar Academy, a girls school in east London.

Ali said they hatched a plan to set off a “little” device to cause “alarm” and while he looked into devices and locations Sarwar set about making a documentary. This was to be their defence – one which the jury refused to believe.

Sarwar said he could get help making and distributing the documentary – to feature the explosive “martyrdom” videos – from friends in High Wycombe, Ali claimed.

It is here that Ali and Sarwar’s versions of events clashed. Ali gave the impression of Sarwar as an able and willing co-conspirator – Sarwar said he was led along by the more capable Ali.

Ali – the first to give evidence – said: “It wasn’t like a leader type of thing. Me and Assad mainly we were together on it.”

Yet Sarwar said of Ali: “I would describe him as a strong character, someone who's upfront, which I liked about him. He would speak his mind.”

Asked to describe himself Sarwar said: “Someone who follows I think.”

And Mr Bishop said Sarwar was a “silent type” who had few friends and, unlike Ali, was not “educationally gifted”. Asked if he found studying “easier” Ali simply answered: “I can't confirm or deny that.”

Sarwar was religious Mr Bishop said – but his Islamic faith was “wholly alien to mass slaughter”.

When he took the stand Sarwar spoke of incidents that appeared to support the defence’s portrayal of him as someone too incompetent and out of their depth to carry out acts of terrorism.

During discussions with Ali he suggested spraying graffiti in London detailing their opposition to British foreign policy.

Sarwar said: “I had experience before, I was a graffiti artist.”

He added: “Ali laughed at that and said it was kind of ridiculous. I thought it was all right.”

Then there was a near-comical tale of Sarwar’s role as “chemist” whereby he hid bomb ingredients in King’s Wood High Wycombe.

Some hidden hydrogen peroxide has disappeared from the woods, he said. “The council must have took it away.”

He also got up at 4am to bury a suitcase but “the ground was very hard so I found it difficult to dig any hole” Sarwar told the court.

After he “conducted research on the internet on how to dig a hole” Sarwar buried the suitcase.

The court heard of a flurry of activity by Sarwar as he took on the role of “chemist” to create explosive chemical HMTD.

On April 27 he drove to Carmarthenshire, Wales and bought half a litre of Hydrogen Peroxide and toiletries under a false name. A receipt for the buy was later shown to the jury.

Throughout July Sarwar and Ali were watched by undercover officers in London on July 15 – when they ate at a pizza restaurant - and July 23.

Sarwar said he learned how to make HMTD from a friend in Kashmir, Pakistan, when he visited the country in June 2006 to look for a bride. He returned the following month.

Mr Wright told Ali said: “You and Mr Sarwar were keeping the various elements of the bomb separate and distinct.”

Sarwar was responsible for finding a flat in Walthamstow to mix chemicals to produce HMTD and Ali was “engaged in the production line of the bottle bombs themselves”.

Yet by late July Ali felt he was being watched and told Sarwar on July 27 to “be careful” and get a “good supply” of HMTD.

On July 29 Sarwar was again filmed and photographed meeting Ali and the alleged third “principle figure” in the plot, Mohammed Gulzar, in East London. Gulzar was today acquitted of all charges.

On July 31 and August 1 Sarwar toured High Wycombe to collect what the prosecution alleged was the seemingly innocuous ingredients for the bomb plot.

He was captured on CCTV buying a spade in ASDA and a suitcase from Woolworths in High Wycombe. Jurors were told this matched the one found buried in King’s Wood.

The next day Sarwar visited three pharmacies in the town where, under surveillance, he bought four bottles of citric acid which the prosecution alleged was an ingredient of the bombs.

On August 6 Sarwar visited B&Q and Homebase in London Road, High Wycombe where he bought superglue, a rake and was seen examining spades and digging equipment.

On August 9, his last day of freedom, Sarwar High Wycombe, Marlow, Maidenhead, Henley and Amersham making telephone calls and researching hydroponic companies, jurors were told.

He was seen by police putting three five-litre bottles of hydrogen peroxide into a bottle bank in High Wycombe.

Convinced he was being followed, Ali told the court he arranged to meet Sarwar at Walthamstow Town Hall to give him items to hide in Wycombe.

He said: “I wanted to give him the video to put with the other DVD. I also wanted to give him the bottles from the flat, anything that was incriminating.”

Yet Sarwar would not get another chance to hide the items at his home or woodland – that night, while meeting Ali at the town hall, officers swooped on the pair.

It would be more than two years before jurors found his intention throughout this time was to kill.