A senior police officer managing the covert operation into Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist Usman Khan wrongly believed that intelligence he was planning an attack was shared with the panel assessing his risk, an inquest jury has heard.
Intelligence shared with MI5 and certain high-ranking police during Khan’s final days in prison for plotting a terror camp in Pakistan suggested he may have been planning an attack upon his release and that he was going to “return to his old ways”.
Detective Chief Inspector Ryan Chambers, senior investigating officer for West Midlands Police’s covert operation into Khan, said he was among those aware of that intelligence, but also believed the multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) managing Khan’s risk to the public also knew.
Khan, 28 from Stafford, would go on to kill Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at a prisoner education alumni event he was invited to at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge on November 29 2019, nearly a year after his release from prison.
Mr Chambers said that while he was running the covert investigation into Khan, he thought Mappa participants were aware of those two pieces of intelligence.
He told inquests into Fishmongers’ Hall deaths: “Very, very sadly, coming up to this process, it’s come to my attention that they didn’t.”
Khan’s visit to the Learning Together event was first mentioned at Mappa in August 2019, although it has not been established who precisely sanctioned the decision to let Khan attend the event without a police chaperone or other security measures being in place.
Mr Chambers, who did not attend Mappa meetings himself, said he was not aware of the location of the event until much later, and said had he received any fresh intelligence about Khan being a risk to the public then he would have suggested that Mappa refuse him permission to attend Fishmongers’ Hall.
He said: “I thought about this a lot, sadly, for the obvious reasons.
“If we were making the decision that we need to put security measures in place, we are saying there is a risk, and the only way to do that (put security measures in place) is to stop him going.”
Mr Chambers said he was “confident” there was a “good level of understanding” about Khan in the 11 months since his release from prison.
He said: “There was no concerning intelligence that suggested there was any risk. Somebody travelling to London for a rehabilitative event is not necessarily hugely concerning.”
Nick Armstrong, representing Mr Merritt’s family, suggested that it was “completely crazy” that Khan be allowed to attend Fishmongers’ Hall on his own, given the previous intelligence about him and the reports following his release that he was becoming increasingly isolated, showed flashes of anger, and remained fixated on his time in prison.
Mr Chambers replied: “There are learnt lessons in this, no doubt.”
The inquests continue.