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Fishmongers' Hall: 999 workers tell inquest of 'chaos and confusion' after Usman Khan's rampage

Paramedics refused to enter Fishmongers' Hall to treat 'critical victims' over bomb fears despite Usman Khan being shot dead by police minutes earlier, an inquest heard today.

It meant police were forced to pause CPR to drag dying Jack Merrit, 25, into the street for futile treatment.

Armed officers reassured the paramedics that the attacker was dead and it was safe to enter the hall but a bodyworn camera picked up one of them saying: 'They're refusing to come in mate.'

Earlier in today's inquest a paramedic and two police officers described the moment they were met by 'messy and chaotic' scenes as they responded to a frantic 999 call.  

Carlton Cullinan of the London Ambulance Service was having lunch with a colleague near London Bridge when he was called to the scene on November 29, 2019. 

And PC Harvey Sampford, of City of London Police, who arrived as Mr Merritt was being moved out of the hall, revealed he saw victim Mr Merritt's 'eyes rolling in the back of his head' as he lay dying after the attack.

Cambridge University graduates Mr Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were killed and three others seriously injured in the knife rampage by convicted terrorist Usman Khan.

The tragedy unfolded at a prisoner rehabilitation event held at the venue by Learning Together, an organisation for which Mr Merritt worked and Ms Jones volunteered.

Secretly armed with three knives and a fake suicide vest, Khan attended the conference pretending to have 'changed his ways,' the inquest into the victims' deaths has heard.

Bystanders and police surrounding Usman Khan at the scene of the terror attack on London Bridge on November 29, 2019

Carlton Cullinan (pictured) of the London Ambulance Service was having lunch with a colleague near London Bridge when he was called to the scene on November 29, 2019

Three other attendees - a civil servant and two reformed offenders - chased him out of the hall using a narwhal tusk, a decorative pike and a fire extinguisher as makeshift weapons.

Police shot Khan on London Bridge while he 'writhed around' on the pavement and refused to stop moving, the inquest heard.

Meanwhile, paramedics could not treat those who were injured inside the Fishmongers Hall building. 

Footage caught an unarmed police sergeant telling the HEMS emergency medics: 'There's two critical. They need you in there now.'

An armed officer, referred to as YX97, added: 'Right let's grab their kit for them. HEMS on me please, it's safe, it's been declared a warm zone.'

A 'warm zone' is an area where a terrorist has recently left but to which he might return, although Khan had been shot dead on London Bridge minutes earlier.

How the Fishmongers' Hall attack unfolded

Convicted terrorist Usman Khan killed two talented young people and injured three more in around five minutes during a knife attack at Fishmongers' Hall. An inquest into the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt has heard a detailed account of how events unfolded:

  • March 10 1991: Usman Khan is born in Stoke-on-Trent.
  • 2010: Aged 19, Khan is convicted of terrorism offences and spends the next eight years in jail. In that time, he becomes involved with Learning Together organisation.
  • December 2018: Khan is released from jail on various licence conditions and lives in Stafford.
  • March 2019: Khan maintains contact with Learning Together and is involved with filming a video for the organisation.
  • June 2019: He attends a Learning Together event at one of his former prisons, HMP Whitemoor.
  • November 29, 2019, 7.30am: Khan travels by train from Stafford to Euston Station in London. He is met at the station by a Learning Together staff member and he travels by Tube and foot to Fishmongers' Hall near London Bridge. On route to London, it is believed Khan straps a fake suicide belt around his waist and covers it with his jacket.
  • 11am to noon: The delegates attend a brunch at Fishmongers' Hall.
  • 11.56am: Video footage shows Khan talking 'animatedly' with Saskia Jones at a table, even though they had not known each other before.
  • 12noon: The main Learning Together sessions get under way with speeches in the Banqueting Hall followed by breakout sessions until 1.30pm.
  • 1.37pm: Jack Merritt leaves the building briefly, returning at 1.40pm.
  • 1.45pm: A further breakout session is due to begin but Khan goes down to the toilets on the ground floor next to the reception area.
  • Around 1.53pm: Mr Merritt goes to the gents toilets.
  • Between 1.56-1.57pm: Khan launches his attack in the men's toilets at Fishmongers' Hall with two knives strapped into his hands. As he prepares, he leaves a bag containing a third blade in a cubicle and drops a prayer book on the floor. He encounters Mr Merritt in the toilets and stabs him multiple times, causing 12 injuries including a fatal wound to the chest. Khan makes his way to the cloakroom area, where he gestured to a member of staff 'as if to be quiet'. He stabs Ms Jones once in the neck. She staggers up a few steps before collapsing. Khan goes on to stab Stephanie Szczotko in the arm at the bottom of the stairs before stabbing Isobel Rowbotham in the main reception. Over the next few minutes, Khan is confronted by a number of people who take items from the walls to defend themselves, including a ornamental pike and narwhal tusks. Khan returns to attack Ms Rowbotham again as she lies on the ground. He also injures the Fishmongers' Hall porter Lukasz Koczocik, who suffers a stab to the arm. Khan forces a member of staff to open the doors by holding a knife to his chest. He tries to chase a member of the public back inside the hall but is unsuccessful.
  • 1.58pm: Police receive a call to attend the scene.
  • Around 2.01pm: Khan is pursued on to London Bridge by John Crilly, Steven Gallant and Darryn Frost. During a confrontation on the bridge, Mr Crilly sprays a fire extinguisher at him and Mr Frost jabs at him with a narwhal tusk before they all tackled Khan to the ground with other members of the public.
  • 2.02pm: Armed City of London Police officers arrive on the bridge and tell members of the public to stand back. Khan is shot and Tasered by police, causing him to writhe on the ground.
  • 2.10pm: Khan is shot again due to the alleged 'threat' from what police believed was an improvised explosive device strapped to his body.
  • 2.12pm Khan no longer shows any signs of life.
  • 2.25pm Ms Jones is pronounced dead from a single neck wound.
  • 2.33pm: Mr Merritt is pronounced dead. A post-mortem examination later confirms he suffered multiple knife wounds, including some defensive injuries. The fatal wound is to the chest.
  • 2.41pm: An explosives officer moves towards Khan with armed officers and concludes the IED is fake.
  • 3.07pm: Khan's life is pronounced extinct.

Laura Pugsley, a HEMS paramedic, was picked up telling the officer: 'We're not allowed to work in a warm zone and you need to bring them back OK.'

The officer told her: 'Right then we'll drag them out. There are two people critical in there' before adding to a colleague: 'They're refusing to come in mate.'

In fact, the inquest was told, their rules did not stop them entering a warm zone, but it was 'unprecedented' - meaning they had not done so in the previous attack on London Bridge.

After a further discussion, the HEMS team agreed they would go in to do an assessment and then leave.

A two-man tactical response unit from the London Ambulance Service had made the same decision, despite having helmets and anti-ballistic vests and additional training to treat casualties in the warm zone.

CPR had to be halted on Mr Merritt, who had just gone into cardiac arrest, as police officers put him onto a 'sked' stretcher, so that he could be carried out of the building and then dragged along the street.

During the five-minute operation, resuscitation had to be stopped and was only restarted by the police officers when he got to the end of the street.

His chest was cut open by the HEMS emergency medics but they could not save him and he was declared dead eight minutes later.

Izzy Rowbotham, who had received multiple stab wounds to her neck and upper body, was also carried from the hall for treatment, but her life was saved.

Ms Jones, a third worker on the Learning Together prisoner rehabilitation project, was declared dead at the scene.

Mr Cullinan described finding unarmed police officers conducting CPR on Merritt just inside the front door of the building. They had already put tourniquets on both arms and a chest seal and were trying to use a defibrillator to restart his heart.

Mr Cullinan told the inquest that he and colleague Nick Eve had come up with a plan to drag the casualties out of the hall to vehicles parked near Monument station.

He said they were approached by an armed police officer who was 'yelling out to us for LAS and that we should come forward with him.'

'Our plan was, which we made with HEMS as well, to go forward into the warm zone and to extract the two patients in cardiac arrest back to where we were standing.'

Jonathan Hough QC, for the coroner, asked: 'What was the rationale for taking patients in cardiac arrest from the scene, outside?'

'Purely from the danger aspect,' Cullinan said. 'We are able with the equipment to go into a warm zone with extra safety, with the idea that if we drag them out we can provide more care.

'We only take the basics into a warm zone as it is not safe.'

He told the inquest that inside the hall he told the police officers to 'keep doing what they were doing and once we have him on [the sked] to stop,' explaining: 'You can't do chest compressions and extricate.'

Mr Hough asked: 'What is the rationale behind taking somebody out of the scene even when that involves ceasing CPR and there are lots of police around to protect you at the scene?'

'The rationale is to get out of the warm zone to somewhere more safe, to get more extensive treatment from more advanced clinicians and doctors who may potentially be able to save the patient,' Cullinan said.

Just after they got Merritt onto a sked and began carrying him out of the building, he realised the HEMS doctors were in the building too.

He said he told the police officers to 'stop' but by then they were already down the stairs.

Dr Andrew Milne, a registrar doctor with the HEMS team, said there was 'no specific guidance' on whether they could enter a warm zone.

'No HEMS teams as far as I am aware had entered a warm zone before this day,' he added. 'There is no hard and fast rule in standard operating protocols to say we couldn't.'

Mr Hough asked if it was 'unprecedented' and the doctor said: 'correct.'

'Given the hazards of that scene specifically the potential IED on the perpetrator, we felt we needed to get the patients that we had a chance of helping out to the casualty clearing area at the north end of the road leading from London Bridge as fast as possible.'

On entering the hall, the Hems team did a 'walkaround' to assess the casualties. Dr Milne said: 'Given the hazards at that scene, specifically the potential IED on the perpetrator, we felt we needed to get the patients we had a chance of helping out to the casualty clearing point as fast as possible.

'Saskia did not have a chance of recovery, had been in cardiac arrest for too long and, (given) the blood loss and the region where she was stabbed, we did not have a hope of reversing cardiac arrest.'

But he felt there was a 'chance' to save Mr Merritt and wanted him to be taken out first. The Hems team spent four minutes inside the hall before heading to the casualty clearing point.

At around 2.28pm, Dr Milne and his colleague performed a thoracotomy on Mr Merritt, who had been dragged out on a Sked stretcher.

The doctor described the moment he realised Mr Merritt could not be saved. He told jurors: 'I can feel the heart is very empty. At that point I knew the patient had bled to death. Jack had bled to death.'

Mr Merritt was pronounced dead at 2.33pm.

Laura Pugsley a paramedic with the same team, said: 'I was very hesitant. I was aware it was the TRU who were supposed to operate in that area, not people who hadn't had that training.

'The police officer was very insistent that it was safe move forward. I paused and said to Sammy and Andy [the two HEMS doctors] I didn't think it's safe to operate in this area - we didn't exercise it, we didn't practice it.

'We all agreed that was a sensible plan in that we would move forward and withdraw as soon as possible.

'He was very keen for us to come forward and didn't understand the hesitance to come forward.'

Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt (left), 25, and Saskia Jones (right), 23, were killed by convicted terrorist Khan

Earlier today jurors heard of the chaotic aftermath from a series of emergency service workers who responded to the tragedy.

Paramedic Mr Cullinan told of the 'confusion' when he arrived at the scene and heard a round of gunfire.

He reached the scene at 2.09pm after his colleague received the call at 2.06pm but did not know what kind of incident they were responding to, the inquest heard.

Giving evidence today, the paramedic described the scenes as emergency services attempted to reach victims as quickly as possible.

Usman Khan, 28, who was armed with two knives and wore a fake suicide vest, was tackled by members of the public

Mr Cullinan said: 'We were discussing what could possibly be happening we heard more gunfire at which point there was a bit of confusion because I think I assumed that someone had been stabbed and then the person who had been shot was most likely the person who had been attacking.

'So then it was confusing why there was more gunfire, whether that was police shooting at someone or someone shooting at police so at that point it was just confusion.'

He was told by a policewoman that there were two people going into cardiac arrest and directed to where Mr Merritt lay dying, he said.

The victim's wounds were dressed and a defibrillator being used by officers advised a 'shock' to be administered, jurors heard. 

City of London PS James Minney, who also treated Mr Merritt, 'crouched down' as he heard a 'volley of shots' being fired during the mayhem, jurors heard.

The officer entered Fishmongers' Hall at 2.07pm, eight minutes after the first 999 call, and found the victim colourless and collapsed on the floor, the inquest heard.

After a pause, the sergeant deemed it safe to stand up and started noting down the casualties around him, including Isobel Rowbotham who survived her stab injuries.

As Mr Merritt was most severely wounded, PS Minney called for other officers to join him and gathered more first aid equipment.

Asked about the victim's condition, PS Minney said: 'Members of staff were putting pressure on wounds.

'[He was] not in a good way, sir. I think I've described it as there was no colour in his body and his eyes were rolling in his head. I shouted for more officers to come and join me inside.'

PC Harvey Sampford, of City of London Police, arrived as Mr Merritt was being moved out of the hall.

After the victim was carried to a safer area, 'three to four rounds' of CPR' was performed before a shock was administered by paramedics, jurors heard.

'He looked very grey and his eyes were rolled back into his head and he didn't look like he was breathing,' the officer said. 

Yesterday, Ms Rowbotham, a graduate in her 20s who was stabbed by the Fishmonger's Hall terror attacker at a prisoner rehabilitation event told the inquest she pleaded 'No Usman, please' then 'played dead' after he thought he had 'finished' her.

She was one of three people seriously injured when she was knifed in the arm by Khan.

Ms Rowbotham worked for Learning Together with its course coordinator, Mr Merritt. She told jurors she first realised an attack had been launched when she saw her colleague hunched over and covered in blood.

Still processing what had happened, Ms Rowbotham turned round to see Khan charging towards her with a look of 'intent,' jurors heard. She told the inquest she knew Khan before the rampage and had met with him before.

However, she could not remember specific details. On seeing Khan approach her, Ms Rowbotham called out: 'No, Usman, please' but he ignored her, the inquest heard.

An artist's impression of Isobel Rowbotham giving evidence during the inquest at Guildhall in the City of London

Usman Khan was photographed sitting one seat away from Saskia Jones in the banqueting hall at Fishmongers' Hall in 2019

Isobel Rowbotham (circled, left) and Jack Merritt (circled, right) with friends   

Usman Khan (left) stands across the hall from Jack Merritt (right) on November 29, 2019 before Khan carried out the attack

Usman Khan and Saskia Jones sat at a table at a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers' Hall on November 29, 2018

Usman Khan stands (circled, left) at a drinks reception before the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers' Hall in 2019

Jack Merritt (circled) in the main event room at the prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29, 2019

Usman Khan (1) and Saskia Jones (2) sit at a table together at the prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge in 2019

Housekeeping supervisor Ama Otchere, shown in an artist's sketch, came across Khan coming out of the men's toilet with 'anger in his face' after he had stabbed Mr Merritt. Ms Otchere said that when she reached the door, Khan pushed it open and held a knife up while putting a finger to his mouth gesturing at her 'not to scream,' the inquest was told

When it became clear he was 'intent' on attacking her, Ms Rowbotham turned around and 'hunched' in a self-defensive pose, jurors were told.

Bravely recalling the atrocity, softly spoken Ms Rowbotham said: 'The first thing I noticed was Jack coming from the area in the opposite corner and we didn't necessarily know what was going on because he was shouting that he'd been stabbed and it takes it a little while to register what he's saying.

Police officer shouted: 'Stay with us sweetheart' as medics battled to save Jack Merritt's life

A policewoman shouted: 'Stay with us sweetheart' as emergency services battled to save Jack Merritt's life, the inquest heard today.

The university graduate was carried out of the hall onto the junction between King William Street and Cannon Street where he was given CPR.

PC Kate Langtry and PS Daniel Murphy, who responded to the incident, stayed with the victim while medics began performing surgery in the street.

PC Langtry told jurors today: 'I understood him to be very severely injured at that stage.' 

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, said: 'You're saying stay with us sweetheart... You're still with Jack.'

Jurors were told police entered Fishmonger's Hall at 2.08pm and carried Mr Merritt to a rendezvous point to perform first aid.

CPR was stopped at 2.23pm and emergency services made the call that Mr Merritt was 'beyond saving' at 2.33pm, the inquest heard.

'He was holding his stomach and he'd obviously been injured and there was a lot of blood everywhere. So I was focusing on him for a little while and it took a while to register what had actually happened.

'He was wearing a white shirt so the red blood was quite obvious and he was hunched and in a lot of pain. He was walking towards the exit.'

Ms Rowbotham told jurors Khan stabbed her multiple times which 'felt like punches' before she collapsed to the ground.

'I looked round to my left and then I saw Usman coming towards me with knives in his hands,' she said. 'They seemed quite big, kitchen knives. 

'I don't remember whether he was running or not but he seemed to be moving fast, purposefully. He seemed quite intent. I obviously said... I knew what it was, so I said 'no, Usman please.'

'When it was obvious he wasn't going to stop I turned to my left and just sort of hunched to try and protect myself. [It] felt more sort of like punches I guess, sort of just a lot of repeated punches.' 

After Khan stabbed her in the neck in what he seemed to think were the 'final' blows, she lay on the floor as still as she could to stop him returning to her, the victim said.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, asked her: 'Did you become aware that that attack had come to an end?'

'Yes. It's a little bit fuzzy because I remember his final stabs were in my neck and it felt like he thought they were the final ones. As in, intended to finish me, I guess,' Ms Rowbotham said. 

'Were you conscious and able to understand your surroundings?' Mr Hough asked.

She replied: 'I was on the floor and closed my eyes but I could still hear. I sort of decided to play dead so he wouldn't come back again and realise I wasn't dead straight away sort of tried to slow down my breathing, blood flow as much as possible.' 

Khan also attacked Stephanie Szczotko, 26, and Lukasz Koczocik, who both survived. 

The killer, who was armed with two knives and wore a fake suicide vest, was tackled by members of the public with a decorative pike, narwhal tusk and fire extinguisher, and then shot dead by police on London Bridge. 

The inquest has already been shown an image of Khan standing yards away from Mr Merritt only three hours before murdering him, while a second showed him sitting just one seat away from his second victim Miss Jones. 

Jack Merritt is seen on CCTV arriving at the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers' Hall on November 29, 2019

A Metropolitan Police photograph of an improvised explosive device which was shown during the inquest Tuesday

Saskia Jones is seen on CCTV arriving at the prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers' Hall on November 29, 2019

Steve Gallant (left), who confronted Khan on London Bridge, and Darryn Frost (right), the 38-year-old civil servant working at the Ministry of Justice who fought off Khan with a narwhal tusk

Also yesterday, Gareth Watkins, the security guard at the Fishmongers' Hall for the last 18 years, described a 'pleading look' on Mr Merritt's face as he emerged from the toilets.

Merritt had originally gone outside for a vape and Mr Watkins had asked him to stay off the steps, he said in a statement to the inquest.

A few minutes after coming back in he saw Merritt 'running towards me. I noticed he was bleeding through his white shirt.

'There appeared to be a bad injury in the centre of his chest. I thought this was very serious. Jack ran towards the reception office. Dawn and I were in disbelief.

'I vividly remember a pleading look on his face. He then lay down. I looked out of the office and saw the attacker.'

He described Khan as 5ft 6ins to 5ft 7ins tall with a beard and a baseball cap. 

He saw Khan point one of the knives at his colleague's chest and added: 'The attacker said, 'Let me out.'

'Andy paused for a minute. I shouted at Andy to let him out. I grabbed a fire extinguisher to protect myself and yelled a warning to everyone to get away.

'People looked bewildered as though they did not know what was going on.'

He went back in to find Ms Rowbotham lying in a pool of blood in the foetal position with a man kneeling at her side.

'I took a table cloth. I could see deep wounds, I could see the flesh and fatty tissue. I apologised for pressing so hard. A woman came over said the woman's name and I heard her murmur back.'

Koczocik, the porter, grabbed a pike and went outside with some other people and two to three minutes later the police arrived.

'They had gloves on. I told them about Jack in the reception room. More officers came over and said keep the pressure on. An officer asked me to get a defibrillator.'

As he did so, he spotted Ms Jones lying on the staircase and being worked on with another defibrillator.

'He was wearing a ash padded jacket and he was holding a knife on his right hand side. [The knife] was quite long.'

David Robertson, who hosted the event on behalf of Fishmonger's Hall, led guests down a service staircase and out of the building onto Swan Street.

Once outside, Mr Samuels heard 'a succession' of gunshots coming from London Bridge, the inquest heard. The group took shelter in a nearby solicitors' office for 40 minutes while police attended the scene, jurors heard.

Jury inquests into the deaths of Mr Merritt and Ms Jones are taking place before coroner Mark Lucraft QC at Guildhall. They are due to go on for six weeks before a separate inquest into Khan's death. 

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