United Kingdom

Families of Fishmonger's Hall terror attack victims attend start of jury inquest

Families of the victims of the 2019 Fishmonger's Hall terror attack today attended the start of an inquest into the incident as the jury were sworn in.  

At the start of the inquest - which is set to last nine weeks - Coroner Judge Mark Lucraft outlined the events leading up to the deaths of Cambridge university graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at the Guildhall in the City of London. 

The victims were killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at a rehabilitation event held by Learning Together, a scheme run by the Cambridge Institute of Criminology on November 29, 2019.

Khan, 28, pretended he was deradicalised before stabbing five people, including Mr Merritt, a course coordinator for the Institute, and Ms Jones, a volunteer. 

Families of Jack Merritt, 25, (left) and Saskia Jones, 23, (right) the victims of the 2019 Fishmonger's Hall terror attack, today attended the start of an inquest into the incident as the jury were sworn in

Khan, armed with two knives and a fake suicide vest, was chased out of the venue and onto London Bridge by attendees holding a narwhal tusk and a fire extinguisher.

Police shot him dead on the bridge after he was tackled to the ground by members of the public.

The families of Mr Merritt and Ms Jones attended the inquest in person today as a panel of 11 jurors was sworn in.

Attendees were asked to take lateral flow tests, wore surgical face masks, and sat in socially distanced seats throughout the hearing as part of a strict protocol to maintain Covid-secure conditions.

Opening the inquest, Judge Lucraft warned jurors there would be some 'graphic' details about the tragedy.

Khan, 28, (pictured) pretended he was deradicalised before stabbing five people, including Mr Merritt, a course coordinator for the Institute, and Ms Jones, a volunteer

The judge said: '[Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones] both died on 29 November 2019.

'This hearing concerns their deaths that occurred following an attack by Usman Khan at Fishmonger's Hall in the City of London that day. the role of the coroner is to investigate violent or unexplained deaths.

'If we go back to 2019... In that year, there were some 530,857 deaths registered in England and Wales. Of those deaths some 210,900 were reported to a coroner.

'Many of the inquest hearings that took place would have taken an hour two hours or at most a day to resolve. Very few span days or even weeks.

'On 29 November 2019, a number of people attended an event at Fishmongers Hall. Jack Merritt were two of those attending that event. The event had been organised by Learning Together.

'Learning Together is a national organisation founded in 2019 dedicated to the rehabilitation of prisoners.

'It is associated with the University of Cambridge and runs courses in a number of prisons.

'The event was attended by a variety of people associated with the organisation including supporters of the organisation, current and former prisoners.

'Saskia was a former Cambridge criminology student who sometimes attended Learning Together and Jack a former Cambridge undergraduate who was employed by the university as part of the Learning Together programme.

Khan was challenged outside the Fishmonger's Hall by members of the public, who had a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk, before the arrival of police 

Describing the terror attack, he said: 'As you will hear Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were attacked by one of the other attendees, a former terrorism offender.

'Both Jack and Saskia received stab wounds that proved to be fatal.

'Two others attendees, Isobel Rowbotham and Stephanie Szczotko, were attacked and survived the attacks on them. Others were less seriously hurt.

'A number of those present set upon a decorative pike, narwhal tusks and a fire extinguisher.

'Khan confronted a maintenance engineer and threatened him, forcing him to use his fob to allow Khan out of the building.

Mr Merritt (left) and Ms Jones (right) were both graduates from Cambridge University and a rehabilitation event held by Learning Together, a scheme run by the Cambridge Institute of Criminology on November 29, 2019. Merritt was a course coordinator for the Institute and Ms Jones was a volunteer at the event

'Once he was out of Fishmonger's Hall and on London Bridge Khan was attacked by other attendees of the event, and by members of the public, forcing him to the floor and kicking the knives he was holding from his grip.

'Armed police officers were soon on the scene and directed members of the public away. Kahn was wearing what appeared to be a suicide vest.

'He was shot and tasered. As his death was a result of action of police officers his death will be subject to be a further, separate inquest. Despite all the efforts that were made sadly both Jack and Saskia died.

'Some [evidence] will inevitably be quite graphic but care has been taken not to show the most graphic footage.'

Lawyers representing the victims' families have previously said a key issue will be whether the atrocity could have been avoided. 

Pictured: Forensic investigators search for fingerprints in a cordoned off section of London Bridge following the Fishmonger's Hall terror attack in 2019

Security services, police and Mr Merritt's employers are to face questions on whether they missed chances to stop the 28-year-old.

Khan, who was out on licence and wearing an electronic tag at the time of attack, had previously been convicted of plotting a terror strike on London's Stock Exchange.

He was released early from his sentence in December 2018.

The families of both victims had previously separately sought legal action against the Government for alleged failings over Khan's early release. 

The inquest continues.

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