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Fishmongers’ Hall attack inquests: Ex-prisoner held Saskia Jones and told her she was loved as she lay dying

Lizzie Dearden
·5-min read
Usman Khan and Saskia Jones talking at a Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall before he launched his attack (Metropolitan Police)
Usman Khan and Saskia Jones talking at a Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall before he launched his attack (Metropolitan Police)

A former prisoner held a terror attack victim and told her that she was loved as she lay dying, an inquest has heard.

Saskia Jones, 23, was murdered by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at a rehabilitation event in London on 29 November 2019.

Khan had been invited to Fishmongers’ Hall alongside other ex-offenders who took part in Cambridge University’s Learning Together programme.

The inquest was played footage of the terrorist appearing to chat with Ms Jones after they were sat at the same table at the start of the event.

Khan was then put into a separate workshop to Ms Jones and used an afternoon break to make his final preparations for the attack, arming himself with two knives in the men’s toilets.

He emerged from a cubicle to see Jack Merritt, a 25-year-old employee of the Learning Together programme, and stabbed him to death before attacking Ms Jones in an adjoining cloakroom.

Sandra Bufano, a Fishmongers’ Hall staff member, said she heard screams coming from the bathroom before Khan emerged.

She said Ms Jones had entered the cloakroom shortly before to hand in her belongings, following a cigarette break, and that Khan’s intention “didn’t click” immediately because she could not see his knives.

Ms Bufano said Khan looked her straight in the eye and appeared “very intense”, before moving towards Ms Jones in a “completely calm and collected” way.

She told the inquest that Ms Jones backed away but was cornered, and screamed as Khan stabbed her neck.

Gareth Evans, a former prisoner who had met Ms Jones while she was volunteering with the Learning Together programme, ran downstairs after hearing screaming.

Usman Khan and Saskia Jones talking at a Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall before he launched his attackMetropolitan Police
Usman Khan and Saskia Jones talking at a Learning Together event at Fishmongers’ Hall before he launched his attackMetropolitan Police

He described seeing Ms Jones walking towards a staircase “looking distressed and pale”, holding her neck.

“She collapsed and as she let go of her neck a lot of blood came out,” he told the inquest on Monday.

“I took hold of her, she collapsed and I sat down on the steps and I was talking to her.

“I was just trying to make sure that she felt comfortable and safe, so I said that she was loved and that she was beautiful.”

Mr Evans said Ms Jones was conscious at the time and appeared to be trying to say “please”, as attendees started to fight Khan nearby.

Adam Roberts, a prison officer who escorted an inmate to the event, said he arrived shortly after Ms Jones collapsed and saw her “bleeding profusely” from her neck.

Mr Roberts said he put pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding and urged Ms Jones to look at him, rather than the chaos where people were throwing objects at Khan in the foyer.

The inquest heard that a female Learning Together employee called the emergency services and Mr Roberts relayed information, but Ms Jones then stopped breathing.

Attendees started CPR before City of London Police arrived and took over the first aid, as Mr Roberts continued putting pressure on Ms Jones’ injury.

The order of service is pictured for the memorial of Saskia Jones on December 20, 2019AFP/Getty
The order of service is pictured for the memorial of Saskia Jones on December 20, 2019AFP/Getty

The inquest heard that a defibrillator did not advise a shock, meaning that it could not detect a heartbeat, before paramedics arrived around 25 minutes after the start of the attack.

Police officers continued performing CPR but a doctor from the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service told them to stop after arriving and assessing Ms Jones’ condition.

“I think it didn’t make any sense to me, I didn’t understand why we needed to stop,” Mr Roberts said.

“I felt like I’d done everything right, I’d got to her quickly and done everything I could. I had it in my head that we would get her to the paramedics and off to hospital and it would be fine.”

The prison officer said that he was angry with the doctor at the time, because it did not “feel like anyone else had tried” to save Ms Jones.

The inquest heard that he used his jacket to preserve her dignity after medical intervention stopped, and stayed with Ms Jones until being evacuated by armed police.

While they were battling to save her life, attendees of the event had been pelting Khan with objects and trying to subdue him in the foyer of Fishmongers’ Hall.

Two witnesses told the inquest they remembered Khan either telling the people to call the police, or saying that he did not care if they arrived.

Marc Conway, a policy officer for the Prison Reform Trust, said he thought Khan was hit by furniture but he was not subdued, adding: “He had some added motivation or strength that I’ve not seen before.”

Khan threatened a member of staff to be let out of Fishmongers’ Hall and was chased onto London Bridge by several attendees, who had armed themselves with items including a fire extinguisher and narwhal tusk.

Mr Conway said he called the police before joining efforts to pin Khan down, stamping on his hands to remove a knife that he had taped on and kicking him.

He described the moment he realised that Khan was wearing a suicide vest, adding: “Someone said he’s got a bomb and realised he had the belt round him, you felt like you was fighting for your life.”

The inquest previously heard that the device was “authentic-looking” but fake. Armed police then arrived and pulled the attendees off Khan, before shooting him. The inquests continue.

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Fishmongers’ Hall attack inquests: Terrorist launched rampage after victim chanced upon him making preparations in toilets