Fishmongers’ Hall bosses ‘not warned about Usman Khan’s terrorist background’

Margaret Davis and Ryan Hooper, PA
·4-min read

The managers of Fishmongers’ Hall were not warned that convicted terrorist Usman Khan would be attending a prisoner education event where he stabbed two people to death, an inquest jury has heard.

Clerk of Fishmongers’ Company Commodore Toby Williamson said that, had the body had the full information about Khan’s background, they would have refused to host the conference, organised by charity Learning Together.

Khan, 28, killed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at the event on November 29 2019.

Mr Williamson told the jury in the inquests into Mr Merritt and Miss Jones’s deaths that Hall bosses were not warned that Khan already had a conviction for terrorism.

He said: “What we didn’t know was Usman Khan … was a terrorist.

“He was presented on an attendee list in alphabetical order … we didn’t know him from anyone else who was attending.

“If we had asked more than we had asked already it would have come back as ‘It’s a low-risk event’. That was the position of Learning Together and that was their understanding.”

Usman Khan
Usman Khan recorded a thank you message for a Learning Together event in Cambridge in March 2019 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

He told the court that additional information about Khan’s offending was not passed on to Fishmongers’ Hall.

“People who knew of Usman Khan, the prison setting he had been in … all of that was unsighted to us,” he told the jury.

“It was known to others; regrettably it didn’t allow us to make any precautions or decide whether it was an appropriate event for us.”

Earlier, the court heard that Fishmongers’ Hall mainly hosts private events where all attendees are known to the organisers.

The Princess Royal is a member of the court of the Fishmongers’ Company and attends around a dozen events there each year, with other events including VIP guests such as the Prime Minister and the Prince of Wales.

Despite this, there were no bag searches or knife arches at the venue, and no internal CCTV, the inquests heard.

A lone wolf terror attack had been identified as a high risk to the venue but with a very low likelihood that one would happen.

The inquest also heard that low concentrations of cocaine and heroin had been found in Khan’s beard, suggesting “occasional or unique” use between late summer and the time of the attack.

Earlier, the court heard that Mr Merritt and Ms Jones suffered deep, fatal knife wounds which sliced through major organs.

Forensic pathologist Dr Ashley Fegan-Earl said the two victims, who were both Learning Together academics, bled to death after being attacked.

Mr Merritt suffered 15 such injuries during the attack, Dr Fegan-Earl told hearing at City of London’s Guildhall on Monday.

He said this included a 2.8in (7.2cm) wide horizontal stab wound to his right upper chest, which cut through a rib, passed down to his diaphragm and liver, and would have led to “torrential haemorrhage and death”, despite emergency medical treatment at the scene.

Incident on London Bridge
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were killed by Usman Khan (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Mr Merritt also suffered a large slash to his right upper arm, roughly 7in (18cm) wide and 6.7in (17cm) deep, which would have bled “freely and copiously”, he said.

The tip of the little finger on his right hand was also sliced off, the pathologist said.

Dr Fegan-Earl added: “It was clear that Mr Merritt had sustained multiple stab and slash wounds, which in my view were indicative of a dynamic assault with significant defensive posturing.

“What I mean by that is, an individual who is assaulted with a knife, if they are capable of anticipating a blow, the natural reaction is to raise the arm to defend themselves.”

Ms Jones had one injury, a stab wound just above the collarbone on her right-hand side, measuring 2in (5cm) wide and 4in (10cm) deep, which passed through the upper lobe of her right lung.

The pathologist gave the cause of death for both victims as shock – the organs not being supplied with blood and oxygen – and haemorrhage.

Both were described as being fit and well at the time they were killed.

Khan, from Stafford in the West Midlands, had armed himself with knives and a fake suicide belt when he launched his attack, 11 months after his release from prison, where he took Learning Together courses, including in creative writing.

He was later pursued to nearby London Bridge by three people who had been attending the conference, who were trying to tackle him with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk.

The men pinned him to the ground before police opened fire.

An inquest into his death will open once the hearings relating to Mr Merritt and Ms Jones conclude.

The hearing was adjourned until Tuesday.