Ex-prisoner urged police to ‘just shoot’ Fishmongers’ Hall attacker

Emily Pennink and Ryan Hooper, PA
·5-min read

A former prisoner who fended off the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker with a fire extinguiser urged police to “just shoot the bastard”, a court has heard.

John Crilly was attending the Learning Together offender educational conference in central London when Usman Khan ran amok with two knives on the afternoon of November 29 2019.

Convicted terrorist Khan, 28, had fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, and injured three other people before running on to London Bridge.

Khan, who was wearing a fake suicide belt, was detained on the bridge by Mr Crilly, Steven Gallant and Darryn Frost, before he was shot dead by police.

Incident at London Bridge
Usman Khan at Bank Underground station before the attack at Fishmongers’ Hall (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Giving evidence at an inquest into the victims’ deaths on Wednesday, Mr Crilly appeared close to tears as he recalled battling with Khan.

He told jurors at the Guildhall in London that he had been speaking with a mentor when he heard screams.

As he made his way downstairs, he saw Ms Jones “bleeding and in a lot of pain”.

As another delegate rushed to help her, Mr Crilly said he went to confront Khan.

“Obviously, he had two big knives. It was apparent straightaway, no missing them. He was shouting and screaming,” he told the hearing.

“I think he was speaking Arabic. As I got closer to him, I tried to engage with him. In response to me talking to him, he started shouting ‘Allahu Akhbar’.

“As I got closer to him I could see the belt as well.

“It looked like a black bodybuilding belt with bits stuck to it – a bit of a contraption but it was pretty obvious what it was.

“I instantly knew it was a terrorist attack and that was a suicide belt.”

Incident on London Bridge
Former prisoner John Crilly (left) carries a fire extinguisher as he leaves Fishmongers’ Hall in pursuit of Usman Khan (Metropolitan Police/PA)

When a woman came towards him in a “trance”, Mr Crilly said he tried to distract Khan.

He said: “I started shouting ‘What the f*** are you doing? What’s going on?

“He says: ‘I’m going to kill you all. You are motherf****** dead’.”

Mr Crilly said he went on to try to “call his bluff”, asking him: “What the f*** is that round your waist? Is that supposed to be a suicide belt?”

He told jurors: “I was trying to engage with him. He started saying things like ‘I’ll blow it, I’m waiting for the police’.

“At this point it just went nuts. I say it was a bit like Benny Hill. I was running round trying to distract him.”

He said Khan kept coming for him and he grabbed a lectern and threw it at him, but it “just bounced off”.

“Every time I did something like that he came for me with the knives, so I backed off again.”

Incident on London Bridge
Prison Service worker Darryn Frost takes a narwhal tusk from Fishmongers’ Hall to tackle Usman Khan on London Bridge (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Khan made his way back into the foyer, where he began stabbing Izzy Rowbotham, jurors heard.

Khan stabbed her twice, shouting “Allahu Akhbar”, before Mr Crilly intervened by hitting him with an ornamental chair, he said.

“I picked it up and swung it at him. It definitely knocked him across the room,” he said.

Mr Crilly then picked up a fire extinguisher and drove Khan back, jurors heard.

“I just sprayed him with it and it seemed to have an effect.

“He seemed to be struggling from the foam. He then came running through the foam with the knives, so I had to back off again.”

Khan staggered outside and on to London Bridge, pursued by Mr Crilly, Mr Gallant, and Mr Frost, who was brandishing a narwhal tusk.

Mr Crilly said he screamed at people outside: “He’s got a bomb, get back.”

He went on: “He just kept turning round to scare us off. I think he knew he was in trouble and wanted to get away then.”

Khan stopped, faced the men on the bridge and lashed out at the extinguisher hose, jurors heard.

Mr Crilly said: “Luckily Darryn hit him with the spike and he lost his balance.

“It just seemed to knock him off balance. I think he was on his way, then Steve put him down.”

Incident at London Bridge
Court artist sketch of John Crilly (right) giving evidence in the Guildhall in London during the inquest into the terror attack at the Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019 (Elizabeth Cook/PA)

Mr Crilly said he hit Khan over the head with the extinguisher and wrestled a knife from him, adding: “This guy was trying to kill us.”

Armed police arrived and ordered the three men to get back.

On his reaction, the witness said: “Armed police – I got off quick. I was telling them to shoot the bastard.

“They were shouting at him to stand still. I was telling them he’s just killed people, he’s got a bomb just shoot him.”

He told jurors that Khan was Tasered before being shot.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the coroner, asked Mr Crilly: “Overall, what was your impression of how officers dealt with Khan?”

He replied: “They gave him opportunities to stop, to comply. I was telling them to get on with it.

“It seemed like an age. I was screaming at them to shoot him. It seemed to take ages, giving him plenty of time.”