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‘Hope it goes well’: Police email said they ‘could not justify’ escorting terrorist to event where he committed attack

Lizzie Dearden
·4-min read
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were murdered during the 2019 Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack (Metropolitan Police)
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were murdered during the 2019 Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack (Metropolitan Police)

A police officer said he “could not justify” escorting a terrorist to an event where he launched a deadly attack, in an email signed off: “I hope it goes well.”

Usman Khan murdered two people in a knife rampage at an event held by Cambridge University’s Learning Together education programme at Fishmongers’ Hall.

Inquests into his victims’ deaths heard that police, probation and MI5 were consulted about the 28-year-old’s attendance as an alumnus of the scheme on 29 November 2019.

They were shown a chain of emails between Learning Together staff, Khan’s probation officer and police about arrangements on Thursday.

Dr Amy Ludlow, one of the founders of Learning Together, wrote that Khan “really wants to come” but said he would be “more comfortable” if someone travelled with him from his home in Stafford to London.

Kenneth Skelton, Khan’s probation officer, asked counter-extremism police officers whether they could “arrange for someone to accompany him on the train”.

Sgt Calum Forsyth, of Staffordshire Police’s Prevent team, replied on 4 November saying they were “not in a position” to escort Khan.

“This would require two people to travel with him and that cannot be justified,” said an email shown to the jury.

“If [Learning Together staff] are able to meet him and take him from Euston to the event and then return him to Euston then I think that would be more appropriate. I have no issue with him attending the event and hope it goes well.”

The inquests heard that Khan’s train to London was cancelled, but victim Jack Merritt and a colleague helped him find an alternative service to reach the event.

He attended opening talks, where he sat on the same table as his second victim Saskia Jones, and joined a workshop where he told attendees he was turning from the “wrong path”.

Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police

Khan made his final preparations for the attack in a toilet, taping knives to his hands and revealing a fake suicide vest, before attacking Mr Merritt as he emerged from a cubicle.

The 28-year-old fatally stabbed Ms Jones in an adjoining cloakroom and wounded three other people before being shot dead by police on London Bridge.

Khan had been permitted to join Learning Together courses while serving a prison sentence for preparing acts of terorrism, even becoming a “peer mentor” for fellow inmates.

The inquests heard that he was allowed to attend the scheme’s fifth anniversary celebration at Fishmongers’ Hall in London following a meeting involving MI5 earlier that month.

A hearing on Thursday was told that intelligence that Khan had been radicalising fellow inmates and may have been planning an attack before he was freed from prison in December 2018 was not shared with Learning Together staff.

The terrorist was put under strict licence conditions restricting his movement and internet usage, and officials refused permission for him to attend a March 2019 Learning Together event in Cambridge.

The inquests heard that Khan was allowed to attend an event at his former prison, HMP Whitemoor, in June that year with a police escort to and from the jail.

Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquests, asked Dr Ludlow if she was surprised at the sudden relaxation of controls for the event at Fishmongers’ Hall.

Dr Ludlow said she noticed a change in position but “assumed it was because of the information and expertise they had in making that risk assessment”.

She said she had been in contact with Khan following his release from prison and was not concerned about his behaviour, adding: “I understood that he wanted to live an ordinary life and was interested in creative writing. He had tried to find a job but I didn’t have detailed conversations about his future.”

Khan’s probation officer, Mr Skelton, informed her that he had been unsuccessful in applications for numerous jobs and had a “dip in mood”.

“He had shared some low-level concern that Usman’s mood had become lower - he wasn’t going to the gym as much and was struggling to get work - but none of that concern was expressed in alarming terms,” Dr Ludlow said. “People released from prison go up and down.”

Asked whether the information should have prompted concern about Khan’s mindset before the event at Fishmongers’ Hall, Dr Ludlow said that officials monitoring the terrorist through multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa) “knew those things and they still said he could come”.

The inquests heard that Learning Together staff did not conduct a formal risk assessment for the event, which was attended by other ex-offenders, because it was not required.

There were no bag searches or scanners, and local police were not informed of the event.

The inquests will examine the planning for the event and security at the venue, as well as the intelligence held on Khan and how he was monitored by police.

Read More

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Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist identified as threat by MI5 11 days before attack, court hears