Fishmongers’ Hall attacker Usman Khan claimed he had turned away from “the wrong path” just minutes before launching his stabbing rampage, an inquest has heard.
Khan had been part of a group of extremists who were convicted in 2012 of plotting an attack on the London Stock Exchange, but he had been freed from prison shortly before carrying out the atrocity at Fishmongers Hall.
An inquest into the deaths of Cambridge graduates Mr Merritt, 25, and Ms Jones, 23, today heard how Khan had spoken about how Learning Together had “helped him” at that day’s event.
Barrister Catherine Jaquiss said she heard Khan speak at a ‘break-out’ session on “turning points”.
“As part of the session we were asked to contemplate any occasion or occasions in which we made a choice which led us in one direction or another”, she said.
“I remember him saying something to the effect that he had been involved with a group of people who had been leading him down the wrong path.
“He had now seen that way was wrong, and he was now essentially turning the other way.”
Ms Jaquiss described Khan as “perhaps a little shy”, but added: “I didn’t notice anything out of the ordinary at all at the time”.
Chartered legal executive Millicent Grant also heard Khan’s contribution to the workshop, saying he was “explaining how the Learning Together project had helped him”.
“He seemed to be implying if people, friends for example, aren’t making the right choices, he would be able to influence them”, she said.
“At the time, I understood this man’s comments seemed to imply he was a good influence on his friends, he needed to correct them and help them on to the right road.”
She said Khan was not “animated” and he appeared to be speaking calmly.
Attendees believed Khan was going to speak on stage when the event resumed from a break at 2pm, to share his experience of Learning Together.
Filmmaker Amy Coop, who had been hired to document the five-year anniversary event, told the inquest: “There was screaming and shouting. It quickly became apparent something very bad had happened.
“As soon as I stepped out on to the landing, it was clear something was going on. The sounds seemed to be coming from downstairs. I looked over the bannister, down towards the stairwell.
“I could see a young woman lying on the stairs with a man kneeling next to her, trying to help her.”
Moments earlier, Khan had attacked Mr Merritt in the toilets, inflicting 12 wounds including a fatal injury to his chest.
He stabbed a further three people before eventually leaving the hall.
Ms Coop said she saw Ms Jones collapsed on the stairs, looking “very very unwell - she was ashen grey in the face, her eyes were open, very glassy, just staring straight upwards.”
She said she went in search of a first aid kit and material to try to stem the bleeding, and also heard “very loud, kind of guttural roar coming from a male person”.
“It was a horrible, just a horrible noise coming from somebody”, she said. “Like going into battle in a film, it sounded like the kind of thing you would hear in a film.”
Attendees of the event were hurriedly evacuated from the hall, and many heard the gunshots as Khan was killed by armed police officers on London Bridge.
He had been tackled by members of the public brandishing a narwhal tusk and a decorative pike as makeshift weapons, and then shot dead when police saw his fake suicide vest.
DCI Dan Brown told the hearing he believes Khan had strapped the vest to himself on his train ride down to London from Staffordshire that day, keeping it concealed under his oversized coat.
The nine-week inquest continues with evidence from a retired judge and staff members from the hall who tried to save Mr Merritt.