The wife of the man who killed 49 people in the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 has spoken out for the first time since she was acquitted of helping him plan the attack.
Noor Salman was tried for aiding and abetting Omar Mateen – who was killed by police at the scene – in carrying out the deadliest terror attack on US soil since 9/11, and has remained in virtual hiding since being found not guilty in 2018.
Three years later, Salman says she’s decided to go on the record in an attempt to clear her name, with many of the victims’ families believing that she was ‘morally culpable’ for her husband’s actions.
‘People were like, if she’s innocent and didn’t do [anything], why isn’t she clearing her name? I just didn’t talk because I didn’t have the strength,’ Salman told VICE. ‘It’s time people know the truth. I hate how people assume I didn’t care or that I supported him. It hurts sometimes to think that people assume that I am this kind of monster.’
In a series of conversations, Salman, now 35, revealed that her husband had been physically abusive towards her, raping her repeatedly, beating her while she was pregnant and also ‘lashing out’ at their son. ‘Looking back now, I should have seen the red flags. I should have seen his behaviour. I should have seen it,’ she said.
During Salman’s trial in 2018, it was revealed by the prosecution that claims made by her while under interrogation that she had helped her husband scout the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida ahead of the attack were known to be false, despite the allegations having been featured in reports by the national press and used by the FBI to deny her bail.
Salman now says she told investigators she knew of his plans because she was ‘trying to process’ the situation and wanted to leave. ‘If she believed somebody was going to be hurt by his actions, she would have made sure—even if she was put in the line of danger—she would make sure that the right people knew,’ her sister Shurooq told VICE.
Now living in California, Salman is a stay-at-home single mother raising her son, who she says is aware of the atrocity his father committed. She is in therapy, and says she has only recently begun leaving the house without a disguise.
‘The first day of therapy, I remember to this day saying why was I so stupid? How did I not see the red flags? If [I] now went into the past and saw his behaviour, then yeah, I would be like, oh sh*t, something’s wrong,’ she said.
If you are experiencing domestic violence, please know that you are not alone. You can talk in confidence 24 hours a day to the national domestic violence helpline Refuge on 0808 2000 247