Fishmongers’ Hall attack inquests: Armed officer describes ‘scene of devastation’ after terrorist rampage

Police officers gave first aid to two victims before paramedics arrived due to bomb fears

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Thursday 15 April 2021 21:44
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were murdered during the 2019 Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were murdered during the 2019 Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack

Armed police found a “scene of devastation” at a rehabilitation conference where a convicted terrorist launched a knife attack, an inquest has heard.

Police officers were the first emergency service members to enter Fishmongers’ Hall, where Usman Khan murdered two people and stabbed three others on 29 November 2019.

Inquests into the deaths of his two victims, Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, heard that paramedics did not immediately go into the building because of the potential danger from marauding terrorists or a bomb.

An armed City of London Police officer, codenamed YX97, described what he saw when he ran into Fishmongers’ Hall.

“It was a scene of devastation, with blood everywhere and armed and unarmed officers doing their best to help people,” he said, saying victims were lying on the floor and stairs.

Read more:

Carlton Cullinan, a London Ambulance Service paramedic, described the scene as “messy and chaotic”.

He added: “It was very crowded, a lot of blood. There was blood down the staircase at the front.”

YX97 told how he first heard a radio report of a woman being stabbed on London Bridge, but then heard there were multiple victims.

He said he arrived on the bridge to see Khan on the ground after being shot and did not immediately notice the “authentic-looking” suicide vest under his jacket.

In a statement read to Thursday’s hearing, YX97, said he moved to detain Khan and give him first aid but another officer shouted: “We need to get back, he’s got an IED”.

“I felt a wave of dread pass over me,” he said. “I immediately realised that should the suspect detonate a device, officers on the bridge and members of the public would almost certainly be killed or seriously injured.”

Usman Khan seen being chased out of Fishmongers' Hall during attack inquest

The officer, who has been granted anonymity by the coroner, said he then heard officers shouting from Fishmongers’ Hall that they needed a defibrillator and first aid for multiple casualties inside.

“I could hear the panic in their voice,” he added. “I ran a medical bag and defib to the stairs and threw it to the officers.”

After being told five victims were inside, YX97 gave the officers already inside another first aid kit and protected the building’s entrance.

Fishmongers’ Hall was “well within” the 100m safety zone needed around Khan’s potential bomb, the hearing was told, and officials decided to evacuate casualties from inside for treatment further away.

The officer said he saw Mr Merritt being put on a stretcher in a reception office, but that he already “appeared to be deceased”, and saw two other injured victims in the lobby.

Mr Merritt, 25, worked for Cambridge University’s Learning Together rehabilitation programme, which was holding an anniversary celebration at Fishmongers’ Hall.

The hearing, at London’s Guildhall, was told he was stabbed multiple times by Khan in a toilet before running out and raising the alarm.

He was given first aid by staff and police officers, who started CPR before the arrival of paramedics.

Specialist Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (Hems) doctors, who regularly respond to stabbings in London, were asked to enter the hall by police.

Usman Khan at Bank station on his way to Fishmongers’ Hall in London on 29 November 2019

It had been declared a “warm zone” under Plato protocols for marauding terror attacks, meaning a threat could still be present and that emergency services personnel can only enter with certain protections.

Dr Andrew Milne, of Hems, said that although Khan was nearby with his fake suicide vest they made the “unprecedented” decision to enter Fishmongers’ Hall following an armed police officer.

He told jurors: “There is no specific guidance. No Hems team, as far as I'm aware, had entered a warm zone before this day.”

The Hems team did a “walkaround” to assess the casualties and decided to evacuate them to a “clearing point” up the road.

Dr Milne said he was told that Ms Jones, 23, had been undergoing CPR for 15 minutes when he arrived.

“Saskia did not have a chance of recovery, had been in cardiac arrest for too long and given the blood loss and the region where she was stabbed, we did not have a hope of reversing cardiac arrest,” he told the hearing.

Dr Milne said he felt there was a ”chance“ to save Mr Merritt and wanted him to be evacuated first for treatment.

He was taken on a drag stretcher from Fishmongers’ Hall to a casualty clearing station at a nearby road junction.

Shortly before 2.30pm, around half an hour after the attack started, Dr Milne and a colleague performed open chest surgery on the victim but could not save his life.

The doctor said he conducted an internal examination but discovered that Mr Merritt’s heart was “completely empty”, adding: “At that point I knew...the patient had bled to death, Jack had bled to death.”

Ms Jones was declared dead inside Fishmongers’ Hall, after being stabbed in the neck. Three other victims survived their injuries.

The inquests are examining the medical care given to the victims and emergency response to the attack, as well as Khan’s planning and preparations.

He had been invited to the Learning Together event as an alumnus of the programme, after joining while serving a prison sentence for preparing acts of terrorism.

Khan was released from prison in December 2018 and being monitored by the probation service, police and MI5 at the time of the attack. The inquests will continue on Monday.