The man who fought the London Bridge attacker with a fire extinguisher has been named as a convicted killer who was mentored by one of the victims.
Crilly had been with the victims at a prisoner rehabilitation conference in nearby Fishmongers’ Hall where Khan launched the attack.
He and other bystanders, including ex-offenders and staff, fought the knife-wielding terrorist with items including a pole and narwhal tusk before he was shot dead by armed police.
In a series of emotional Facebook posts, Crilly praised Mr Merritt as the “best guy I ever met” and told how he mentored him as part of the Learning Together programme.
“He educated me,” he added. “Jack came all the way from Cambridge to be at my graduation in Manchester. How proud am I to be called Jack Merritt’s friend.”
Crilly suggested that the victim, who was a coordinator of the Learning Together programme, had also directly mentored Khan.
He wrote: “Jack actually tried helping this guy! To educate him.”
Writing directly to Mr Merritt, the 48-year-old added: “RIP Jack. Love you! Missing you so much already.”
Friends commenting on Crilly’s posts praised his bravery, after he was widely hailed as a hero over footage that showed him confronting Khan.
The Sun reported that he met Mr Merritt when the Cambridge University-based Learning Together scheme began working with inmates at HMP Grendon in Buckinghamshire.
Crilly was released from prison last year after earning an Open University law degree in prison.
He had originally been found guilty of murder and robbery and given a life sentence in 2015, but had the conviction quashed because it was made under controversial “joint enterprise” rules.
They are used to convict defendants in group-related cases, where it is argued that they foresaw deadly attacks even if they did not strike the fatal blow.
In 2016, the Supreme Court found the law had been misinterpreted and Crilly is one of several people to have launched appeals as a result.
After his murder conviction was quashed, Crilly pleaded guilty to manslaughter.
He and associate David Flynn broke into the home of 71-year-old Augustine Maduemezia, who died after being punched in the face by Flynn.
Speaking after his release, Crilly told the BBC he had become “lost in drugs” and committed crime to feed his habit, but was not guilty of murder.
“I had a bad life, I’ve changed it, but I wasn’t guilty of murder,” he added. “I totally accept what I did and it was wrong.”
The chief executive of Fishmongers’ Hall had told of the bravery of delegates and bystanders during the attack.
Toby Williamson described “blood, screams and chaos” as Khan started stabbing victims.
He said a Polish kitchen porter named as Lukasz charged Khan with a pole and fought in “one-on-one combat” before others ran in.
“Two other guys – one has a fire extinguisher one has a narwhal tusk, they join the fight, it’s pretty gruesome, [Khan] decides he is outnumbered, he runs for it.”
Mr Williamson said workers were forced to open the door of the entrance hall in fear of their lives, but that Lukasz, Crilly and the man with the narwhal tusk gave chase onto London Bridge.
An inquest opened on Thursday heard that both Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, who was a volunteer on the Learning Together programme, had been stabbed in the chest.
Mr Merritt’s family said he “died doing what he loved, surrounded by people he loved and who loved him”.
“He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly,” a statement added.
“Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.”
Ms Jones was described as having ”great passion“ for providing support to victims of crime by her family.
They said: ”She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be.“
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