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London Bridge attack: Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt were ‘unlawfully killed’, inquest finds

Written by on 29 May 2021

“Unacceptable management” of London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan contributed to the deaths of his two victims, an inquest has concluded.

The jury at the Guildhall ruled that Khan, 28, “unlawfully killed” Cambridge graduates Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, at the rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall in London in November 2019.

Jurors criticised agencies involved in the management of their attacker, saying it was “unacceptable” and there was a “lack of accountability and deficiencies in management by Mappa (multi-agency public protection arrangements)”.

Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt had been at a prisoner rehabilitation event when they were killed Image: Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, were killed in the 2019 attack

They found that those involved with Khan had been blinded by his “poster-boy image” for the Learning Together programme.

They added that there had been “missed opportunities for those with expertise and experience to give guidance” in the management of Khan.

Mr Merritt’s father David agreed that Khan’s supervision after release “was not fit for purpose”.

He described MI5 and West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Police as “complacent and passive” faced with the threat of what he might do.

“We hope that all other agencies will learn the lessons highlighted by the inquest,” he said after the hearing.

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Jack Merritt’s father spoke about the inquest’s findings on the attack

Mr Merritt said his son was a “do-gooder in the best sense of the term” and that he “believed in the work he was doing”.

He said his family has “stood in solidarity and sorrow” with Ms Jones’s family during “the most difficult and traumatic time of our lives”.

Family of Jack Merritt pay tribute to their son and welcome changes from inquest Image: David Merritt (left) reads a statement outside the inquest

A statement on behalf of the jury sent their “heartfelt condolences” to both families and “to all who love and miss these two wonderful people”.

“They clearly touched the lives of so many, ours included,” they said, adding: “The world lost two bright stars that dreadful day.”

They said they “wanted to convey to the families how seriously we have taken our collective responsibility” and “how much their children matter”.

“We also wanted to take this opportunity to thank the astonishing individuals who put themselves in real danger to help and our incredible emergency services for their response both that day and every day,” they added.

 Image: A map shows where events unfolded that day

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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Assistant Met Police Commissioner admits terrorist management ‘could be improved’

Home Secretary Priti Patel said: “Before the attack, work was already under way to improve information-sharing and last year we announced the establishment of the world-leading Counter Terrorism Operations Centre, bringing together the intelligence agencies, counter-terrorism policing and the criminal justice system in a major overhaul of our response to the terrorist threat.

“It is important that the government and operational partners learn lessons to prevent further incidents like this and we will also consider the inquest findings. I will always do everything in my power to keep the British people safe.”

She added: “My thoughts remain with Jack and Saskia’s family and friends at this difficult time. During the inquest we heard of their immense talents and the positive contribution they made to society at such a young age.”

Justice Secretary Robert Buckland apologised for the “failings that meant [Khan] was able to target those who had only sought to help him reform”.

He said new measures had been put in place to further monitor terror offenders.

Khan stabbed the two victims before he was chased on to nearby London Bridge by members of the public, who were carrying a fire extinguisher and narwhal tusk to try to disarm him.

The 28-year-old, who was wearing a fake suicide vest, was then shot dead by police.

Evidence heard during the six-week inquest hearing repeatedly suggested the decision to allow Khan to attend the event in the capital, 11 months after his release from jail, was made with little scrutiny.

Concerns had been raised about Khan’s increasing isolation and his frustration at being unable to find a job.

Saskia Jones sat beside Usman Khan at the prisoner rehabilitation event Image: Saskia Jones sat beside Usman Khan at the prisoner rehabilitation event

There were also warnings during his eight years in prison that he may not comply with conditions upon release to slip under the radar of authorities.

The inquest heard he had written a play while in jail, which foretold elements of his attack and it was passed to MI5 in early 2019.

The play’s main character was released from a secure unit and commits a series of murders armed with a knife, but a senior MI5 official said it was deemed simply a piece of creative writing.

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