Fishmongers’ jihadi would have been banned had intel been shared, inquest told

Ryan Hooper, PA Chief Reporter
·4-min read

Fishmongers’ Hall jihadi Usman Khan would not have been invited to a prisoner education course celebration had intelligence about his concerning behaviour in jail been shared with event organisers, an inquest jury heard.

Learning Together co-founder Dr Ruth Armstrong said security service information about the 28-year-old convicted terrorist was not passed on ahead of the event on November 29 2019, near London Bridge, in which Khan fatally stabbed two course academics and injured three others present.

The inquests previously heard how intelligence in the prison system suggested Khan was potentially plotting an attack upon his release from jail in December 2018, and that he was considered “the main inmate in the area for extremist views and others” in summer 2017.

Giving evidence on Friday afternoon, a tearful Dr Armstrong told the inquests at City of London Guildhall: “If we had been told of the information and intelligence available, Usman Khan would not have been invited (to Fishmongers’ Hall).

“If we had been told of those risks, of course he would not have been invited.”

Earlier, inquest jurors were shown a chilling video message from Khan in which he praised the educational project whose academics he would later stab in a bloody rampage.

The homegrown terrorist beamed as he described how Learning Together “was kind of family” to him, in a short clip shown at one of their events in Cambridge, eight months before the Fishmongers’ Hall conference.

Khan had not been given security clearance to travel down from Stafford for the Cambridge event, but agreed to record a short “thank-you” message in which he spoke effusively about the opportunities Learning Together offered him in prison.

Incident on London Bridge
Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were killed by terrorist Usman Khan at the Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall in November 2019 (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Dr Armstrong, who Khan appeared to name-check in the clip, averted her eyes from the screen in front of her as the video was played to inquest jurors during her evidence.

In the video, Khan, wearing a grey patterned jumper, glasses, and with his hair and beard neatly trimmed, smiled and gesticulated enthusiastically from a chair in his home as he looked down the camera to praise Learning Together.

Grinning, he said: “Hi, my name is Usman, and basically I’m gonna explain to you how I got to do Learning Together.

“I was in prison and I did eight years in prison … most of that to be honest with you I did in the segregation unit – I was completely isolated.”

He described how creative writing, a course he would later study with Learning Together while in category A Whitemoor Prison, really helped him, having had “no TV, no social situations” for his time in isolation.

He said: “I started doing creative writing.

“I could express myself, in a way nobody can stop you.

“This was a passion I had.

“I went for it and I was introduced to a nice lady called Ruth.

“From there, you come across initiatives in prison.

“But what was different about Learning Together was breaking the barriers, accepting people for who they are.”

Incident at London Bridge
Usman Khan at Bank station on his way to attend a prisoner education event at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge (Metropolitan Police/PA)

He added: “There has to be an understanding.

“Learning Together is working together for the betterment of us all.

“It was also Learning Together – it was kind of family … It is making a difference, and I cannot stress that enough.

“Before I move on, I would like to say to all the team – thank you very much.

“It let out my personality, I am comfortable with who I am.”

Khan then read a short poem he wrote, entitled In The Darkness, which included the line: “A single seed planted in mud becomes a strong tree.”

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquests, said to Dr Armstrong: “I appreciate how hard that is to watch.”

Dr Armstrong nodded.

Incident on London Bridge
Event attendee Steve Gallant carrying a tusk as he exits Fishmongers’ Hall in pursuit of Usman Khan (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Khan armed himself with kitchen knives and a fake suicide belt when he attacked Cambridge graduates and Learning Together delegates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at the programme’s five-year anniversary celebrations on November 29 2019.

The convicted terrorist was then chased onto London Bridge by fellow attendees, including a serving and former offender, before he was fatally shot by police.

The inquests continue.