Monitors of Fishmongers’ Hall killer ‘had no training on handling terrorists’
Written by on 16 October 2020
A team tasked with monitoring a convicted terrorist who went on to kill two people had “no specific training” in handling terror offenders, a court has heard.
Usman Khan, 28, was shot dead by police after he fatally stabbed Cambridge University graduates Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, and injured two other people during a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge on 29 November.
Khan, who was armed with two knives and wore a fake suicide vest, was tackled by members of the public using a narwhal tusk, a decorative pike and fire extinguisher.
The unemployed man, who had been living in Stafford, was then shot dead by police on the bridge.
At a pre-inquest hearing, lawyers for the victims’ families condemned the level of scrutiny of Khan by the Prevent team of officers handling him and lack of security precautions on the day of the attack, including “not even a rudimentary bag check”.
Khan had recently been released from a prison sentence for terrorism offences when he attended the Learning Together event in the City of London.
Nick Armstrong, a lawyer for Mr Merritt’s family, suggested there was already evidence of a “systemic problem”.
He said: “In this case already on the material that has been produced, we have all the Prevent officers from Staffordshire saying they had no specific training in handling terrorist offenders.
“It was handed over by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit to the Staffordshire unit for reasons that remain to be explored and all of them are saying they have no specific training.”
Police paid an unannounced visit to Khan just over two weeks before the atrocity, on 14 November.
The convicted terrorist had been assessed as having “the highest level of risk”, with 22 licence conditions on his release, said Henry Pitchers QC, for Ms Jones’s family.
They found his flat to be dark, Khan was not happy about photos being taken of his Xbox games and wanted to speak to his solicitor, Mr Pitchers said.
His mentoring had ended and he lived alone, but despite presenting “hardly a reassuring profile”, Mr Pitchers said, “his attendance to this event was expressly authorised. It was not slipping between the conditions”.
The question was not whether Prevent or probation knew there was a risk but whether they “should have had an inkling”, he added.
Mr Pitchers went on to question security around the Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall.
He said those who gave permission did nothing to tell Scotland Yard, City of London Police, the Fishmongers’ Company or the organisers of the Learning Together event.
Mr Pitchers added: “There was no security check on the door, not even a rudimentary bag check.”
A full inquest, due to start at the Old Bailey on 12 April next year, will examine how the tragedy happened and if it could have been stopped.