Man who fought off London Bridge terrorist says authorities have 'blood on their hands'

·6-min read

Authorities have "blood on their hands" for failing to properly share intelligence about terrorist Usman Khan, according to one of the men who helped fight him off as he launched a deadly knife attack on London Bridge.

John Crilly, who smashed a chair over the terrorist's back and chased him with a fire extinguisher, said the intelligence services and the police had "dropped the ball" and all those involved "should resign".

Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, died from stab wounds at the scene of the attack, inside Fishmongers' Hall, on the north side of London Bridge on 29 November 2019.

Today, an inquest jury found they were both "unlawfully killed" and Mr Merritt's father David agreed that Khan's supervision after release "was not fit for purpose".

The inquest was told of multiple occasions where MI5, the police and probation service failed to share intelligence on Khan, even though there were concerns the former terrorist prisoner may have intended to return to violent extremism.

After Khan was invited to a rehabilitation seminar in London, the security services called a joint operations team meeting to consider placing him under surveillance during his trip.

That was 11 days before the event, where Khan launched his knife attack. The inquest heard MI5 had been unable to put a surveillance operation in place in time for that trip.

The jury also heard that during his eight years in prison, Khan was considered to be among the 70 highest-risk prisoners in the entire country and had continued to associate with other extremists.

During his deadly knife attack, he also stabbed and injured three other people inside Fishmonger's Hall.

Sky News has spoken exclusively to John Crilly and Gareth Evans, two ex-offenders, who were guests at the Learning Together event.

As the attack unfolded, they rushed forward, putting their own lives at risk, to confront Khan and tend to the injured and dying.

The pair said they knew something had gone horribly wrong when they heard shouts from the main foyer, shortly before 2pm.

John Crilly said: "We just heard the screams and were looking at each other at first, like, what's that and then by the time we were doing that there was more intense guttural screams, it was obvious something was going on downstairs."

The two men ran down the main staircase towards the screams.

"We both got to Saskia at the same time. I get called a hero. I looked at Saskia and I'm dead queasy, I was panicking," he continued.

"It was all happening so quickly, but I was thinking what am I going to do, can I help her and then Gareth at that time knelt down to help her.

"I think what Gareth done and all the other people who helped the injured, should be recognised a lot more."

Gareth Evans said he just acted instinctively, but there was little he could do for Ms Jones.

"I don't know that I did help her. I hope I did," he said.

"She sort of fell into my arms at the bottom of the stairs. I think I sort of knew she was in trouble and so I just tried to talk to her and make sure she felt okay.

"I tried to do more. I hope it made some difference to her."

A post-mortem examination concluded Ms Jones died of a stab wound to the neck.

Even as Mr Evans was comforting her on the stairs, Mr Crilly said Khan was fighting to get back at them.

"I was fighting and dodging him for a bit, I ended up picking a lectern up, big wooden lectern, big hefty thing," he said.

"So I tried to wave that at him. Ended up throwing that at him. That split in two."

Mr Crilly said that Khan ran back down the stairs and stabbed another victim.

"It was like slow motion then. I see him just put the blade right in her, twice. And I just managed to find a chair. Again, just a big ornamental chair and I hit him with that," he said.

"But yeah, that bounced off him and he's come back at me again with the knives. It's at this point I've noticed someone with a tusk. So I've just left to find something else then. Got to the bottom of the corridor and found a fire extinguisher."

Several people joined in the fight to push Khan out of Fishmongers' Hall.

Polish chef Lukasz Koczocik grabbed an ornamental boarding pike and Darryn Frost pulled a Narwhal tusk from the wall to confront the attacker.

They succeeded in pushing him out on to London Bridge.

Mr Crilly continued to spray him with the fire extinguisher.

"It just all clicked together very luckily. I just sprayed him in the face with the thing," he said.

Mr Crilly and others in the group managed to wrestle Khan to the ground.

"Yeah, just jumped on him. So obviously he had the knives. I got an arm, Darryn got an arm and everyone else started coming," he said.

After grabbing Khan's knives from him, Mr Crilly said he noticed the fake suicide vest the attacker was wearing, a device experts at the inquest described as "very realistic".

"I went, what's that there? He went, a belt, I'm going to blow yous all up. I go, like an idiot, well blow it then. That's when he said, I'm waiting for the police."

Within seconds armed police arrived on London Bridge and began dragging Mr Crilly and others away from the danger.

"I'm shouting for him to shoot him, I'm telling him to shoot him, quick, cause he's just killed people.

"And obviously he's got the belt. So I'm just shouting shoot him, shoot him."

Eighteen months on from the attack, John Crilly and Gareth Evans are still deeply affected by what they experienced that day.

And both men are incredibly angry at the multiple alleged intelligence failings highlighted during the inquest.

Mr Crilly said: "I'm never going to be able to process, reading them transcripts, the amount of times they've dropped the ball.

"MI5 knew this guy was dangerous. Cat-A high risk, you can't get any higher than that.

"All the intelligence was there, he was still at it. They've all got blood on their hands. And I will never be able to process it. Every one of them, they should all resign today."

The two men acknowledge the ultimate blame lies with Usman Khan and his actions that day.

Mr Evans said Khan took the lives of two young people who only ever wanted to help others.

"All the things that are wrong with the system, I don't know why you'd sort of point your anger for it at them, because they weren't representative of the system, they weren't people who locked people away, or didn't believe in people," they said.

"They just wanted to make a difference, give offenders a second chance. It just doesn't make sense to me."

Speaking after the inquest's conclusion, Met Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu described the force's shortcomings as "simply unacceptable", adding he was "so deeply sorry".

"The stark reality is we can't prevent every attack," he said. "But I promise we will do everything we can to try."

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