A Fishmongers’ Hall terror victim “played dead” after being repeatedly stabbed to stop her attacker from returning to inflict further injury, she told an inquest today.
She was stabbed repeatedly by Khan – a man she had previously met - and says she believes the extremist was trying to “finish me” with the final knife blows to her neck.
Giving evidence this morning at the inquest into the deaths of Mr Merritt and Saskia Jones, Ms Rowbotham said she saw Khan “moving purposely” towards her with a knife in each hand.
“I looked around to my left, then I saw Usman standing, coming towards me with knives in his hands”, she said.
She initially cried out “no”, and then took steps to defend herself when it became clear Khan was not going to relent.
“When it was obvious he wasn’t going to stop, I turned to my left and sort of tried to hunch and protect myself”, she said.
“He was stabbing me, it felt more like punches, just a lot of repeated punches. I couldn’t count how many at the time.”
Ms Rowbotham told the hearing: “He left, it’s a little bit fuzzy. I remember the final stabs were in my neck.
“It felt like he thought they were the final stabs, as in they were intended to finish me, I guess, and also the attack.
“I was on the floor and closed my eyes, I sort of decided to play dead, just in case he came back again.
“I tried to slow down my breathing and blood flow as much as possible.”
Ms Rowbotham added that she tried to call 999 while laying on the ground injured, but she was unable to use her phone due to the amount of blood on the handset’s screen.
Mr Merritt, 25, a Learning Together course co-ordinator, was the first victim, stabbed 12 times in the toilets by Khan.
The attacker then stabbed Ms Jones, 23, in the neck as she checked her coat into the cloakroom, and Ms Rowbotham was among three others who were stabbed and survived.
Ms Rowbotham, an Anglia Ruskin University student and part-time Learning Together office manager, told the inquest she saw Mr Merritt emerge bloodied and wounded from the toilets, just moments before she herself was attacked.
“We didn’t necessarily know what was going on right away”, she said. “He was shouting that he had been stabbed. It takes a little time to register what he is saying.
“He was holding his stomach, and obviously being injured. There was a lot of blood everywhere.”
She said blood was soaked through Mr Merrit’s white shirt, and he was “hunched and in a lot of pain”.
Mr Merritt sought refuge in a nearby reception office, but died from his wounds along with Ms Jones.
Earlier today, housekeeper Ama Otchere told the inquest she heard Khan reciting the Koran as he carried out the attack on Ms Jones.
Khan, a convicted terrorist who had plotted an attack on the London Stock Exchange, had strapped a fake suicide vest to his stomach before starting the stabbing spree.
Eventually, Khan was shot dead on London Bridge by armed police.
Simon Larmour, a Learning Together researcher, told the inquest he had met Khan when he was still a prisoner, describing him as “quite neurotic” and an “active participant in classes”.
He recorded an interview with Khan prior to the terror attack, finding him “very focused on his time in prison” despite being released in December 2018.
“His answers always reverted back to his time in prison”, he said. “I walked out of there thinking he is still very much in a prison mindset and very hard to disconnect from that reality.”
Mr Larmour said Khan had expressed a desire to get a job, he was writing a play, and called him “upbeat” and “positive”.
He was asked to accompany Khan on the day of the terror attack, meeting him at Euston Station before they headed together to Fishmongers’ Hall.
Mr Larmour said Khan’s planned train from Staffordshire had been cancelled, and it was Mr Merritt who helped to fix the problem.
“Jack looked on his phone to see if there were any other trains that Usman could take”, he said. “We found a solution.”
Mr Larmour heard “shuffling” from a toilet cubicle at Fishmongers Hall, as Khan is believed to have been making his final preparations for the terror attack.
“I didn’t think much of it, because it was just a bathroom”, he said.
He was with Ms Rowbotham when Khan came towards them brandishing two knives, and told the inquest he vaulted over a table to escape before rushing to the reception office where Mr Merritt had sought refuge.
Mr Larmour said he grabble a pole “to use as a spear”, and then tried to administer first aid to Mr Merritt.
The inquest continues.