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Fishmongers’ Hall attack inquests: Terrorist told woman to ‘shh’ before stabbing victim in front of her

Lizzie Dearden
·3-min read
The order of service is pictured for the memorial service of Saskia Jones, a victim of the terror attack in Fishmongers’ Hall,  on December 20, 2019 (AFP via Getty Images)
The order of service is pictured for the memorial service of Saskia Jones, a victim of the terror attack in Fishmongers’ Hall, on December 20, 2019 (AFP via Getty Images)

A woman has told of the moment she came face-to-face with a terrorist who told her to “shh” before murdering his second victim.

Usman Khan, 28, killed two people at a prison rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall in London on 29 November 2019.

Ama Otchere, a housekeeping supervisor for the venue, was one of the staff working on the day who witnessed the attack.

Giving evidence to the inquests into the victims’ deaths on Wednesday, she told how she heard the sound of crying coming from the men’s toilets shortly before 2pm.

“I heard a noise, somebody was crying in the gents’ toilets,” she told the jury.

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“I thought maybe somebody is sick, so let me go there and check and I will tell the security to call an ambulance or something.

“I tried to push the door and then the man came out. He was wearing a padded jacket and holding a knife in his right hand.”

The inquest previously heard that Khan had used the toilets to make his final preparations for the attack, taping two large kitchen knives to his hands and revealing an “authentic-looking” fake suicide vest strapped to his body.

Jack Merritt, a 25-year-old course co-ordinator for the Learning Together programme, chanced upon Khan as he emerged from a cubicle and was stabbed multiple times before being left bleeding on the floor.

Ms Otchere said Khan was “very close” to her when he burst through the toilet door, and raised the knife in his right hand while holding his left finger to his lips.

“When he saw me he raised the knife and told me to ‘shh’ so I wouldn’t scream,” she added. “He wasn’t calm, you could see the anger on his face.”

Ms Otchere told how she raised both hands and started backing away, but Khan kept approaching her as she moved into a cloakroom next to the toilet.

She said his focus moved away “as soon as he saw” Saskia Jones, a 23-year-old, who had volunteered with Cambridge University’s Learning Together programme.

The inquest heard that she met Khan while they were sat on the same table at the start of the event, which marked the fifth anniversary of the scheme.

Ms Otchere said she saw Khan move towards Ms Jones and stab her, while reciting what she believed to be the Quran in Arabic.

“The lady did not know what was going on there so she came in and was talking to the [member of staff] sat there,” she added.

She said she heard Ms Jones scream and ran, “screaming and shouting” to raise the alarm on the way.

When Ms Otchere reached the lower level of Fishmongers’ Hall, she alerted a kitchen porter to the stabbing and went to a butler who called the police.

The kitchen porter, Lukasz Koczocik, was among staff and attendees who then confronted Khan.

The terrorist managed to stab several more victims before being chased on London Bridge and subdued using makeshift weapons, including a fire extinguisher and narwhal tusks.

He was shot dead by armed police, who the inquest heard believed his suicide vest was real, shortly after 2pm. The inquests continue.