Convicted terrorist Usman Khan stabbed a Cambridge University graduate to death at Fishmonger’s Hall then allegedly shushed a frightened housekeeper before killing a second graduate and attacking three other people during a knife rampage near London Bridge.
A nine-week inquest today heard how housekeeping supervisor Ama Otchere came across Khan, 28, coming out of the men’s toilet with ‘anger in his face’ after he had stabbed Jack Merritt, 25, at a prisoner rehabilitation event in the City of London on November 29, 2019.
As she backed away from the killer, he put his finger to his lips as if to tell her not to scream, before he saw Saskia Jones, 23, come out of the cloakroom and stabbed her through the shoulder. Ms Otchere told the court she heard Ms Jones ‘screaming and I just ran from the scene’.
Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, both Cambridge University graduates, were killed by Khan – who was armed with three knives taped to his gloves and a fake suicide vest – before he was chased outside by other attendees brandishing a narwhal tusk and a fire extinguisher.
Two reformed offenders and a civil servant heroically tackled Khan and pinned him to the ground, before police shot him dead as he lay ‘writhing around’ on the pavement and refused to stop moving. Khan’s death will be subject to a separate inquest.
Ms Otchere told jurors today that she believed Khan, who was previously convicted for terror offences and was released halfway through a 16-year sentence on licence after pretending he had deradicalised, was reciting from the Koran in Arabic before the attack.
Describing the attack on Ms Jones, Ms Otchere said: ‘As soon as he saw the lady came to the cloakroom he used the knife to stab the lady’s shoulder. The lady was screaming and I just ran from the scene.’
Jurors heard for the first time that Khan was wearing a ‘mask’ as he carried out the first killing of Mr Merritt. Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, said: ‘You gestured earlier that the other movement he made was holding a finger up to his mouth.’ Ms Otchere said: ‘Yes’.
Mr Hugh then asked: ‘How did you interpret that gesture?’.
‘When he saw me he wielded the knife like this and went like this [with his finger] like telling me not to scream as if someone would come,’ the witness replied.
Asked about Khan’s demeanour, Ms Otchere said: ‘No he wasn’t calm. You can see from his face, you can see the anger in his face. When I was going with my back he was coming towards me and then he came to the cloakroom. He approached a white lady.’
‘And he stabbed an area which you identified as her shoulder?’ Mr Hough asked. ‘Yes,’ Ms Otchere said. ‘He was reciting the Koran.’
A nine-week inquest was told today how housekeeping supervisor Ama Otchere (left in an artist’s sketch, right outside the court) came across convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, coming out of the men’s toilet with ‘anger in his face’ after he had stabbed Jack Merritt, 25, at a prisoner rehabilitation event in the City on November 29, 2019
Usman Khan was photographed sitting one seat away from Saskia Jones in the banqueting hall at Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019
Isobel Rowbotham (circled, left) and Jack Merritt (circled, right) with friends
Usman Khan (left) stands across the hall from Jack Merritt (right) on November 29, 2019 before Khan carried out the attack
Usman Khan and Saskia Jones sat at a table at a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall on November 29, 2018
Usman Khan stands (circled, left) at a drinks reception before the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019
Jack Merritt (circled) in the main event room at the prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29, 2019
Usman Khan (1) and Saskia Jones (2) sit at a table together at the prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge in 2019
Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt (left), 25, and Saskia Jones (right), 23, were killed by convicted terrorist Khan
The inquest earlier heard how a graduate who was stabbed through the neck by Khan had pleaded ‘No Usman, please’ then ‘played dead’ after he thought he had ‘finished’ her.
Isobel Rowbotham, in her 20s, was one of three people seriously injured when she was knifed in the arm by Khan during a rampage near London Bridge that left two others dead.
Ms Rowbotham worked for Learning Together with its course coordinator, Mr Merritt. She told jurors today of how she first realised an attack had been launched when she saw her colleague hunched over and covered in blood.
Still processing what had happened, Ms Rowbotham turned round to see Khan, 28, charging towards her with a look of ‘intent,’ jurors heard. She told the inquest she knew Khan before the rampage and had met with him before.
However, she could not remember specific details. On seeing Khan approach her, Ms Rowbotham called out: ‘No, Usman, please’ but he ignored her, the inquest heard.
When it became clear he was ‘intent’ on attacking her, Ms Rowbotham turned around and ‘hunched’ in a self-defensive pose, jurors were told.
Usman Khan, 28, who was armed with two knives and wore a fake suicide vest, was tackled by members of the public
Bravely recalling the atrocity today, softly spoken Ms Rowbotham said: ‘The first thing I noticed was Jack coming from the area in the opposite corner and we didn’t necessarily know what was going on because he was shouting that he’d been stabbed and it takes it a little while to register what he’s saying.
‘He was holding his stomach and he’d obviously been injured and there was a lot of blood everywhere. So I was focusing on him for a little while and it took a while to register what had actually happened.
‘He was wearing a white shirt so the red blood was quite obvious and he was hunched and in a lot of pain. He was walking towards the exit.’
Ms Rowbotham told jurors Khan stabbed her multiple times which ‘felt like punches’ before she collapsed to the ground.
‘I looked round to my left and then I saw Usman coming towards me with knives in his hands,’ she said. ‘They seemed quite big, kitchen knives.
‘I don’t remember whether he was running or not but he seemed to be moving fast, purposefully. He seemed quite intent. I obviously said… I knew what it was, so I said ‘no, Usman please.’
‘When it was obvious he wasn’t going to stop I turned to my left and just sort of hunched to try and protect myself. [It] felt more sort of like punches I guess, sort of just a lot of repeated punches.’
After Khan stabbed her in the neck in what he seemed to think were the ‘final’ blows, she lay on the floor as still as she could to stop him returning to her, the victim said.
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, asked her: ‘Did you become aware that that attack had come to an end?’
‘Yes. It’s a little bit fuzzy because I remember his final stabs were in my neck and it felt like he thought they were the final ones. As in, intended to finish me, I guess,’ Ms Rowbotham said.
‘Were you conscious and able to understand your surroundings?’ Mr Hough asked.
She replied: ‘I was on the floor and closed my eyes but I could still hear. I sort of decided to play dead so he wouldn’t come back again and realise I wasn’t dead straight away sort of tried to slow down my breathing, blood flow as much as possible.’
Khan also attacked Stephanie Szczotko, 26, and Lukasz Koczocik, who both survived.
The killer, who was armed with two knives and wore a fake suicide vest, was tackled by members of the public with a decorative pike, narwhal tusk and fire extinguisher, and then shot dead by police on London Bridge.
The inquest has already been shown an image of Khan standing yards away from Mr Merritt only three hours before murdering him, while a second showed him sitting just one seat away from his second victim Miss Jones.
An artist’s impression of Isobel Rowbotham giving evidence during the inquest at Guildhall in the City of London today
Bystanders and police surrounding Usman Khan at the scene of the terror attack on London Bridge on November 29, 2019
Jack Merritt is seen on CCTV arriving at the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall on November 29, 2019
A Metropolitan Police photograph of an improvised explosive device which was shown during the inquest yesterday
Saskia Jones is seen on CCTV arriving at the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall on November 29, 2019
Steve Gallant (left), who confronted Khan on London Bridge, and Darryn Frost (right), the 38-year-old civil servant working at the Ministry of Justice who fought off Khan with a narwhal tusk
How the Fishmongers’ Hall attack unfolded
Convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two talented young people and injured three more in around five minutes during a knife attack at Fishmongers’ Hall. An inquest into the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt has heard a detailed account of how events unfolded:
- March 10 1991: Usman Khan is born in Stoke-on-Trent.
- 2010: Aged 19, Khan is convicted of terrorism offences and spends the next eight years in jail. In that time, he becomes involved with Learning Together organisation.
- December 2018: Khan is released from jail on various licence conditions and lives in Stafford.
- March 2019: Khan maintains contact with Learning Together and is involved with filming a video for the organisation.
- June 2019: He attends a Learning Together event at one of his former prisons, HMP Whitemoor.
- November 29, 2019, 7.30am: Khan travels by train from Stafford to Euston Station in London. He is met at the station by a Learning Together staff member and he travels by Tube and foot to Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge. On route to London, it is believed Khan straps a fake suicide belt around his waist and covers it with his jacket.
- 11am to noon: The delegates attend a brunch at Fishmongers’ Hall.
- 11.56am: Video footage shows Khan talking ‘animatedly’ with Saskia Jones at a table, even though they had not known each other before.
- 12noon: The main Learning Together sessions get under way with speeches in the Banqueting Hall followed by breakout sessions until 1.30pm.
- 1.37pm: Jack Merritt leaves the building briefly, returning at 1.40pm.
- 1.45pm: A further breakout session is due to begin but Khan goes down to the toilets on the ground floor next to the reception area.
- Around 1.53pm: Mr Merritt goes to the gents toilets.
- Between 1.56-1.57pm: Khan launches his attack in the men’s toilets at Fishmongers’ Hall with two knives strapped into his hands. As he prepares, he leaves a bag containing a third blade in a cubicle and drops a prayer book on the floor. He encounters Mr Merritt in the toilets and stabs him multiple times, causing 12 injuries including a fatal wound to the chest. Khan makes his way to the cloakroom area, where he gestured to a member of staff ‘as if to be quiet’. He stabs Ms Jones once in the neck. She staggers up a few steps before collapsing. Khan goes on to stab Stephanie Szczotko in the arm at the bottom of the stairs before stabbing Isobel Rowbotham in the main reception. Over the next few minutes, Khan is confronted by a number of people who take items from the walls to defend themselves, including a ornamental pike and narwhal tusks. Khan returns to attack Ms Rowbotham again as she lies on the ground. He also injures the Fishmongers’ Hall porter Lukasz Koczocik, who suffers a stab to the arm. Khan forces a member of staff to open the doors by holding a knife to his chest. He tries to chase a member of the public back inside the hall but is unsuccessful.
- 1.58pm: Police receive a call to attend the scene.
- Around 2.01pm: Khan is pursued on to London Bridge by John Crilly, Steven Gallant and Darryn Frost. During a confrontation on the bridge, Mr Crilly sprays a fire extinguisher at him and Mr Frost jabs at him with a narwhal tusk before they all tackled Khan to the ground with other members of the public.
- 2.02pm: Armed City of London Police officers arrive on the bridge and tell members of the public to stand back. Khan is shot and Tasered by police, causing him to writhe on the ground.
- 2.10pm: Khan is shot again due to the alleged ‘threat’ from what police believed was an improvised explosive device strapped to his body.
- 2.12pm Khan no longer shows any signs of life.
- 2.25pm Ms Jones is pronounced dead from a single neck wound.
- 2.33pm: Mr Merritt is pronounced dead. A post-mortem examination later confirms he suffered multiple knife wounds, including some defensive injuries. The fatal wound is to the chest.
- 2.41pm: An explosives officer moves towards Khan with armed officers and concludes the IED is fake.
- 3.07pm: Khan’s life is pronounced extinct.
Also today, Gareth Watkins, the security guard at the Fishmongers’ Hall for the last 18 years, described a ‘pleading look’ on Mr Merritt’s face as he emerged from the toilets.
Merritt had originally gone outside for a vape and Mr Watkins had asked him to stay off the steps, he said in a statement to the inquest.
A few minutes after coming back in he saw Merritt ‘running towards me. I noticed he was bleeding through his white shirt.
‘There appeared to be a bad injury in the centre of his chest. I thought this was very serious. Jack ran towards the reception office. Dawn and I were in disbelief.
‘I vividly remember a pleading look on his face. He then lay down. I looked out of the office and saw the attacker.’
He described Khan as 5ft 6ins to 5ft 7ins tall with a beard and a baseball cap.
‘It seemed as though he was chasing Jack and would go for anyone he saw. I remember the knives going up and down in his hands as he was running. They looked like large kitchen knives.
‘The attacker ran towards the reception office so I immediately closed the door and held it closed with my shoulder.
‘As I was leaning against the door, I could still see outside. I could see the attacker was right against the door trying to get in.
‘I looked through the door glass and saw the attacker moved three or four feet away. I saw bits of furniture flying through the air.’
He saw Khan point one of the knives at his colleague’s chest and added: ‘The attacker said, ‘Let me out.’
‘Andy paused for a minute. I shouted at Andy to let him out. I grabbed a fire extinguisher to protect myself and yelled a warning to everyone to get away.
‘People looked bewildered as though they did not know what was going on.’
He went back in to find Izzie Rowbotham lying in a pool of blood in the foetal position with a man kneeling at her side.
‘I took a table cloth. I could see deep wounds, I could see the flesh and fatty tissue. I apologised for pressing so hard.
‘A woman came over said the woman’s name and I heard her murmur back.’
Koczocik, the porter, grabbed a pike and went outside with some other people and two to three minutes later the police arrived.
‘They had gloves on. I told them about Jack in the reception room. More officers came over and said keep the pressure on. An officer asked me to get a defibrillator.’
As he did so, he spotted Ms Jones lying on the staircase and being worked on with another defibrillator.
PC Kate Langtry of City of London Police was among the officers first on the scene, telling the inquest today how Mr Merritt has wounds across the top of his chest, both arms, and his back.
‘As we made our way down from the 8th floor at Wood Street there are numerous communications on the radio,’ she said.
‘As we got down to the yard where we keep our vans I heard somebody say, ‘shots fired’, at which stage I realised it was obvious the incident was incredibly serious.
‘I believe there was a report of multiple persons being injured and fire arms officers on the scene. I believed it to be a major, if not critical incident.’
They parked their van near the hall and were clearing pedestrians and drivers from London Bridge when she was told by another officer that the seriously injured were inside.
At 2.08pm, 12 minutes after the attack, she entered Fishmongers’ Hall.
‘There were personnel I assumed to be staff from Fishmongers Hall and a male I now know was Jack on the floor.
‘I would describe him as being very, very unwell. His arm had been bandaged.
‘We removed his clothing to do a top to toe body check and then we understood the injuries to be severe so we got first aid trauma bags brought to us.
‘He was very grey in the face. He was thrashing quite violently. I understood him to be very severely injured at that stage.’
Mr Merritt had injuries to the top of his chest, both arms, and when they turned him over a wound to his back.
They applied tourniquets to both arms and a chest seal.
‘One of my colleagues conducted a pulse check and at that stage we realised there was no pulse and he was not breathing,’ PC Langtry told the inquest.
‘He had gone from what I would describe as thrashing quite violently to really quite still.’
He took a rasping agonal breath, suggesting he was going into cardiac arrest.
They took a defibrillator off the wall and started to do chest compressions but they could not restart the heart enough to give him a shock.
Bodyworn cameras showed that they arrived at the scene at 2.06pm and went into the building two minutes later.
Sergeant Daniel Murphy could be heard saying: ‘Right clothing off, come here get the clothing off. Keep working, keep working’ and calling for ‘tough cut’ scissors.
‘He’s got a stab wound here in the arm,’ he added. ‘It’s alright buddy it’s alright mate what’s your name, talk to me, talk to me, it’s alright I got you.’
Usman Khan is pictured (bottom left) arriving at the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall on November 29, 2019
A Metropolitan Police photograph of an improvised explosive device used during the terror attack at Fishmonger’s Hall
Mr Frost jabbed at Khan with a narwhal tusk (pictured) before tackling Khan to the ground with other members of the public
Metropolitan Police photographs of a knife and tape which were shown in court yesterday as the inquest began
A decorative pike, which was used by members of the public as they tackled terrorist Khan during the attack in 2019
Police officer shouted: ‘Stay with us sweetheart’ as medics battled to save Jack Merritt’s life
A policewoman shouted: ‘Stay with us sweetheart’ as emergency services battled to save Jack Merritt’s life, the inquest heard today.
The university graduate was carried out of the hall onto the junction between King William Street and Cannon Street where he was given CPR.
PC Kate Langtry and PS Daniel Murphy, who responded to the incident, stayed with the victim while medics began performing surgery in the street.
PC Langtry told jurors today: ‘I understood him to be very severely injured at that stage.’
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, said: ‘You’re saying stay with us sweetheart… You’re still with Jack.’
Jurors were told police entered Fishmonger’s Hall at 2.08pm and carried Mr Merritt to a rendezvous point to perform first aid.
CPR was stopped at 2.23pm and emergency services made the call that Mr Merritt was ‘beyond saving’ at 2.33pm, the inquest heard.
At 2.11 pm, tourniquets were being applied and Merritt could be heard crying out and PC Nash added: ‘Relax, relax, we have you. Alright young man alright.’
PC Langtry reassuring him: ‘Stay with us darling,’ then added, ‘Got no breathing, step back, I’m going to press the button.’
Paramedics arrived at 2.21pm, 25 minutes after the attack, as Merritt was in cardiac arrest and told them they wanted him dragged out of the building on a ‘sked’ stretcher.
‘Initially we were carrying it off the ground. One of the officers shouted its designed for dragging and using the lops each of us had a corner and held it and ran dragging Jack,’ PC Langtry said.
They restarted CPR at the junction of King William Street and Cannon Street, four minutes later, where they were met by helicopter medics from the HEMS team.
The police officer added: ‘They asked me how long he had been like this, I could only tell them what time the tourniquets went on.
‘They said he had been ‘down’ for however many minutes and they began what I can only describe as open heart surgery in the street.’
But the efforts were unsuccessful and eight minutes later at 2.33pm, Merritt was declared dead.
Earlier today, a retired judge who witnessed the terror attack told the inquest how he heard ‘angry and confused’ male shouts followed by ‘female screams’ during the rampage.
John Samuels, now president of the charity Prisoner’s Education Trust, described how during a comfort break he saw Ms Jones collapsed on the stairs next to a man wielding a weapon.
Upon hearing screams when he stepped out onto a balcony off the main hall, he looked down to see Ms Jones ‘chalk white,’ the inquest heard today.
‘I heard shouts and screams coming from downstairs,’ Mr Samuels said. ‘I think the first sound I heard were male shouts followed by female screams.’
He described the male shouts as ‘angry and confused’, adding: ‘A female who was lying collapsed on that first flight of stairs with her head on the upper staircase and her legs below.’
Asked about her apparent condition, Mr Samuels said: ‘I noted particularly that her face was chalk white, she appeared unconscious to me or perhaps even dead.
‘The female was obstructed by a male who was standing behind her who was carrying an object as it were across his chest, above his head. I couldn’t at that time identify precisely what it was, but it appeared to be used as some kind of weapon.
‘Initially I thought it might have been one of the ceremonial blades that lined the staircase at Fishmonger’s Hall.’
‘We know a variety of weapons were used to ward off Usman Khan including a lectern, could it be one of those?’ Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, asked.
‘It could well have been a lectern,’ Mr Samuels replied.
He then heard Dr Amy Ludlow, who oversaw the event, making a phone call amid the chaos shortly before 2pm.
‘The gist of what she was shouting was police, ambulance, now,’ the retired judge said.
There were frantic shouts of ‘there’s a bomb’ before guests were told to evacuate the building immediately, the inquest heard.
David Robertson, who hosted the event on behalf of Fishmonger’s Hall, led guests down a service staircase and out of the building onto Swan Street.
Once outside, Mr Samuels heard ‘a succession’ of gunshots coming from London Bridge, the inquest heard. The group took shelter in a nearby solicitors’ office for 40 minutes while police attended the scene, jurors heard.
Jury inquests into the deaths of Mr Merritt and Ms Jones are taking place before coroner Mark Lucraft QC at Guildhall. They are due to go on for six weeks before a separate inquest into Khan’s death.