London Bridge terror victims killed ‘unlawfully’ after failings by authorities - inquest

28 May 2021, 13:24 | Updated: 29 May 2021, 16:47

London Bridge terror attack victims Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones
London Bridge terror attack victims Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Two Cambridge University graduates were "unlawfully killed" by a terrorist in the 2019 attack on London Bridge after a string of failures by authorities, an inquest jury has concluded.

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were fatally stabbed by Usman Khan at a Learning Together offender education alumni event on November 29 2019.

Khan, 28, who wore a fake bomb vest, was tackled by delegates armed with a narwhal tusk and a fire extinguisher, and driven out on to London Bridge where he was shot dead by police.

An inquest at the Guildhall in London heard that Khan had been released from prison 11 months earlier under strict licence conditions and was under investigation by counter-terrorism police and MI5.

Saskia Jones, pictured sitting next to attacker Usman Khan at the event
Saskia Jones, pictured sitting next to attacker Usman Khan at the event. Picture: PA

But the "manipulative and duplicitous" terrorist hid his murderous intent from those tasked with keeping the public safe, the hearing was told.

The jury found the victims had been "unlawfully killed" and found that failings by MI5, the police, and probation services had been a factor in their deaths.

The family of Saskia Jones also heavily criticised the organisation of the Learning Together event.

They said in a statement: "Learning Together declined an opportunity to learn more about Usman Khan and his risk factors. This may have contributed to a failure to take account of the steps necessary to protect the safety and wellbeing of everyone involved.

They also criticised The Fishmongers' Company, saying they "sought to exonerate themselves of any responsibility and refuse to accept, even with hindsight, that they could have avoided the murder of Saskia, with a little more common sense relating to what would amount to simple security measures."

They said the conclusion of the inquest "leaves a number of unanswered questions relating to failures of a number of organisations and individuals."

Previously, the inquest heard how Khan, 28, from Stafford, spent eight years in jail for plotting to set up a terror training camp in Pakistan.

The fake suicide vest worn by Khan during the attack
The fake suicide vest worn by Khan during the attack. Picture: PA

He was released into the community 11 months before the attack under strict licence conditions.

Throughout that time he was managed by probation officers and subject to Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (Mappa).

Cambridge grad Jack Merritt died in the attack
Cambridge grad Jack Merritt died in the attack. Picture: PA

He was also being covertly investigated by MI5 and police, jurors heard.

The inquest has heard Khan was allowed to attend the Fishmongers' Hall event unaccompanied, despite signs he was becoming increasingly isolated and had failed to find employment.

Khan travelled to London by train and is believed to have put on a fake suicide vest under his bulky jacket on the way.

He strapped two knives to his hands in the men's toilets at the venue then fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Ms Jones and Mr Merritt and injured three others.

He was forced on to London Bridge by delegates armed with makeshift weapons and shot dead by police.