Fishmongers’ Hall killer’s ‘truly sad’ family condemn the atrocity, inquest told

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

The older brother of Fishmongers’ Hall attacker Usman Khan has apologised in court to the families of those killed by the homegrown jihadi, saying: “We are truly, truly sad of the events that happened.”

The sibling, who cannot be named for legal reasons, condemned his brother’s actions, saying he was unaware of any plans to carry out the atrocity in which Khan fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at a prisoner education event in central London 18 months ago.

The witness also said that, when news of the attack began to emerge, Khan’s mother was concerned that her son had been harmed in the bloody rampage, not that he was responsible.

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Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were killed by Usman Khan in November 2019 at Fishmongers’ Hall (Metropolitan Police/PA)

It also emerged on Wednesday that Khan tried to hug the head of counter-terrorism at his former prison when the pair bumped into each other on the day of the massacre, adding: “I have learnt that violence isn’t the path.”

Giving evidence at City of London’s Guildhall in the inquests into the deaths, Khan’s older brother by seven years turned towards grieving relatives and said: “First all, sincere condolences to Jack and Saskia’s family.

“We are truly, truly sad of the events that happened.

“Whoever’s been affected physically or mentally, we are really sorry as a family – really, really sad.

“I just wanted to get that off my chest.”

Khan’s brother closed his evidence by adding: “We totally condemn his actions. Totally condemn.”

He shook his head as he did so.

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Usman Khan’s flat in Stafford, where he was living at the time he plotted his deadly attack (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The witness said that despite both men living in a three-bedroom house between 2005 and 2010, he did not pay attention to what his brother was doing with his life, assuming he was “chilling with his friends” and that he “kept everything to himself”.

When Khan became involved in distributing extremist literature in 2008, and later admitted charges linked to a terrorist plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange, the news was “a total shock” to his family, the court heard.

The witness was shown pictures from local Stoke paper The Sentinel of Khan holding extremist leaflets and waving a jihadi flag in the street, as well as with extremist Anjem Choudary.

Nick Armstrong, for the family of Mr Merritt, told the witness that despite his claims that his brother kept everything to himself, he was “literally standing in the street waving a flag”.

He also suggested that Khan had invented a story that he was expelled from school to come across as “a bad boy” and described him as “deeply disturbed”.

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Usman Khan spent eight years in prison for plotting a terror camp (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Mr Armstrong said: “He (Khan) was a nasty, violent, self-regarding piece of work.

“All the signs were there, and you looked away, didn’t you?

“You saw none of that.”

The witness looked down and mumbled a brief, inaudible reply.

After his release from prison in December 2018, the witness said Khan would regularly visit the family home but would routinely dismiss any queries from them about his past.

The brother said: “He used to brush it off (and say) ‘Don’t think about the past’.

“He said ‘I was young, I was silly, I got into stupid things’.”

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Usman Khan recorded a thank-you message for a Learning Together event (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The inquests have previously heard that Khan was involved in a string of violent incidents and “extremist bullying” during his eight years in seven prisons for planning a terrorist training camp.

Jurors were also told that Khan had been an “influential” inmate who associated with other high-profile terrorists, including Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killer.

He had engaged with prisoner education programme Learning Together while in jail, and travelled to London from his home to attend a five-year celebration event at their request on November 29 2019.

The witness said he saw Khan the Sunday before the Fishmongers’ Hall attack and had no idea he was plotting his attack, after evidence suggested Khan went out to buy gaffer tape used to strap knives to his hands an hour after the pair saw each other on November 20.

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Usman Khan bought gaffer tape at a supermarket on November 20, an hour after he saw his brother (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The witness said: “If I had seen anything, I would have relayed it.”

Steve Machin, from HMP Whitemoor, said he briefly chatted with Khan at the Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall, and Khan tried to hug him.

The prison’s counter-terrorism governor said: “(Khan) threw his arms open and stepped in for a hug, which felt a bit weird, for me.

“I met him halfway, took one hand, and did a prisoner-style shoulder bump.”

Asked if he had reflected on his dealings with Khan, Mr Machin said: “It’s all I’ve done since – as a human being it’s hard not to.”

Khan was pursued on to nearby London Bridge by three bystanders, armed with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk in an attempt to disarm him, where he was shot by police.

The inquests were adjourned until Thursday.