London Bridge attack: 'I was prepared to lose my life,' says ex-offender who battled terrorist

Former convict rejects ‘hero’ label after taking on attacker with fire extinguisher

Conrad Duncan
Thursday 12 December 2019 10:29
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Ex-offender who took on London Bridge attacker says he was prepared to lose his life

A reformed ex-offender who helped to take down the London Bridge terrorist with a fire extinguisher has said he was prepared to lose his life to stop the attack.

John Crilly, who was jailed for murder in a burglary that went wrong, told BBC News he did not know the suicide vest worn by convicted terrorist Usman Khan was fake when he confronted him.

“I was just screaming at him to blow it, saying ‘blow it then if you’re going to blow it’ ... I was screaming at him, like calling his bluff sort of thing, has he got the bottle to blow it?” Crilly said.

“I was prepared to probably lose my life.”

Khan killed two people – Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones – and wounded three others in the stabbing attack, which started at a prisoner rehabilitation conference at Fishmongers’ Hall, near London Bridge.

Crilly said he first heard screaming and went downstairs to find Jones wounded and Khan armed with two knives, saying he was going to kill people.

He fought the terrorist with a wooden lectern and later a fire extinguisher, which he used to distract Khan on the bridge so someone could pin him down.

When police came to the bridge, Crilly said it felt like it took ages for them to shoot Khan.

“It wasn’t all gung-ho and trigger-happy,” he told the BBC.

“They proper took their time, to the point where I did scream as well, to shoot him.”

Following the attack, friends and family of the victims paid tribute to Ms Jones and Mr Merritt, who were described as having “dedicated themselves to helping others”.

John Crilly with Jack Merritt at his university graduation in Manchester in September

They had both been attending the Fishmongers’ Hall event for Cambridge University’s Learning Together programme, which works on prisoner rehabilitation.

Ms Jones’ family said she had “a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice”.

Mr Merritt’s family said he was an “intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic person”.

“Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog,” the family said.

Crilly said you could tell Mr Merritt was “genuinely interested” in helping other people and he gave him “hope”.

When asked if he thought of himself as a hero for stopping the attack, an emotional Crilly said he did not accept that description.

“A hero? No. Jack gave up his life, he would be my hero,” he said.

Crilly was given a life sentence for murder and robbery in 2005 over a burglary in which 71-year-old Augustine Maduemezia died after being punched in the face by Crilly’s associate, David Flynn.

He was convicted under the joint enterprise law, which can be used in crimes where a person could have foreseen that their associate might inflict serious harm.

Crilly successfully appealed against his murder conviction and pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2018.

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