A terrorist launched an attack at a prison rehabilitation event after one of his victims chanced upon him making preparations in the men’s toilets, an inquest had heard.
Usman Khan murdered two people and stabbed several others in a knife rampage at Fishmongers’ Hall in London, on 29 November 2019.
The opening of inquests into his victims’ deaths heard that he was a guest at an event held by Cambridge University’s Learning Together rehabilitation programme.
The 28-year-old had been jailed in 2010 over a jihadist terror attack plot, and was released in December 2018 under licence conditions.
Khan listened to talks and attended a workshop before going to the men’s toilets, where he made his final preparations for the attack.
DCI Dan Brown, who led the investigation into the attack, said Khan taped two 8-inch kitchen knives to his hands and left a third in the toilet cubicle.
He said investigators believe the terrorist made a fake but “authentic-looking” suicide belt, including Xbox components, at his Stafford home and concealed it under an oversized coat before the attack.
As Khan was making his final preparations, Jack Merritt, a Learning Together course coordinator, entered the men’s toilets by chance shortly before 2pm.
“Only Khan and Mr Merritt were in the area at this time but blood analysis shows Mr Merritt was attacked by Khan as he was leaving the toilet cubicle,” DCI Brown said.
“He had a knife in both hands, which were taped to the gloves he was wearing.”
The inquests heard that Mr Merritt, 25, tried to defend himself as Khan set upon him. He sustained 12 injuries, including a fatal wound to the chest.
Khan left the toilets and went into the venue’s cloakroom, where Learning Together volunteer Saskia Jones, 23, had just entered to leave her coat.
DCI Brown said Khan “made a gesture towards a member of staff as if to be quiet” before approaching Ms Jones and stabbing her fatally in the neck.
The hearing, being held at London’s Guildhall instead of the Old Bailey to enable social distancing, was told that Khan had met both victims before the attack.
Mr Merritt knew Khan because he had taken part in Learning Together courses while in prison, and had exchanged communications with him in a professional capacity.
Ms Jones met Khan when they were seated on the same table at the start of the event, and jurors were shown footage showing them talking for several minutes.
DCI Brown said the contents of their conversation is not known, and that Khan and Ms Jones were then split into two different groups for workshops that concluded shortly before the attack.
After Khan stabbed Ms Jones, he encountered another woman, Stephanie Szczotko, and stabbed her once in the arm.
He arrived in the main reception area of Fishmongers’ Hall and attacked a Learning Together employee called Isobel Rowbotham, then returned to stab her again while she was prone on the ground.
DCI Brown said Khan was then “confronted by attendees” and staff who had heard screaming, and gathered weapons from the walls of Fishmongers’ Hall including an ornamental pike, narwhal tusk and fire extinguisher.
Lukasz Koczocik, a kitchen porter, was stabbed in the arm during the battle to subdue Khan, who then forced a staff member to let him out the locked front door by threatening him with a knife.
DCI Brown said he attempted to get back into Fishmongers’ Hall but found the door locked behind him, and walked onto London Bridge still armed with both knives.
Khan was followed by three attendees from the event and chased as he ran towards members of the public.
The inquests heard how Khan was attacked by Mr Crilly, who used a fire extinguisher, and Mr Frost, who was armed with a narwhal tusk, before members of the public joined the effort to subdue him.
The group managed to pin Khan down by 2.01pm and armed police officers from City of London police arrived seconds later.
DCI Brown said officers told people to move away from the attacker, and saw what appeared to be a suicide belt.
“At that point, one of the officers discharged his firearm and another discharged his Taser,” he added. “Khan remained on the floor but still moving about.”
More armed officers from City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police arrived and focused their weapons on Khan from a distance.
DCI Brown said the terrorist was shot several more times at 2.10pm after he sat up, moved around and was judged to present a bombing threat.
No further movements were seen and he was formally pronounced dead at 3.07pm.
Mr Merritt managed to walk out of the toilets despite his injuries and was taken to an emergency services rendezvous point for medical care, but was declared dead at 2.33pm.
Ms Jones’s condition deteriorated quickly after she collapsed at the bottom of a staircase outside the cloakroom, and she was given CPR by attendees, police officers and paramedics. She was pronounced dead at 2.25pm.
Henry Pitchers QC, representing Ms Jones’ family, said she would wish for the inquest to focus on the facts and evidence, with “emphasis to be on a thorough investigation as to how she came to lose her life”.
“It would be her hope that no other family is devastated and heartbroken again in similar circumstances,” he added. ”She should be defined as someone who battled to improve the lives of others in several spheres and was driven to make real changes in the world.”
He said she hoped to become a detective who would support rape victims, and had a “positive impact on so many people in challenging situations”.
Mr Merritt’s mother, Anne, wept as she delivered emotional tributes from her son’s friends and loved ones.
She told jurors: “Jack Merritt was a good person. Jack was a force for good in the world, someone who made other people's lives better for knowing him.
“We are hugely proud of who Jack was and what he stood for. His death was a tragedy but his life was a triumph.”
She read tributes from friends and family who described him as a “true visionary”, a “very cool brother” and a “fiercely loyal” friend who “championed the underdog”.
The inquest is expected to last for several weeks, and will be followed by a separate jury inquest into the death of Khan.