Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist’s brother apologises in court to grieving families

The brother of the Fishmonger’s Hall terrorist Usman Khan has apologised to the families of those killed by the jihadi and insisted his family was ‘truly sad’ about the terror attack. 

The older sibling, who cannot be named for legal reasons, made a direct apology to the families of Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, who were killed by the convicted terrorist, 28, at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London in November 2019. 

He also said Khan had ‘seemed fine as a child’ at the age of around 12, but added he did not know too much about his younger brother because there was an age gap of several years.   

In a short statement before giving evidence, Khan’s brother said: ‘First all, sincere condolences to Jack and Saskia’s family. We are truly, truly sad of the events that happened.

Fishmonger’s Hall terrorist Usman Khan (pictured) killed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at Fishmongers’ Hall in central London in November 2019

‘Whoever’s been affected physically or mentally, we are really sorry as a family – really, really sad. I just wanted to get that off my chest.’ 

The witness also told the court that Khan had ‘kept everything to himself’ and that his arrest in 2010 after plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange came as ‘a total shock’ to the family. 

The jury heard that despite living in a three-bedroom house between 2005 and 2010, the brother did not pay attention to what Khan was doing with his life, assuming he was ‘chilling with his friends’. 

Around this time, Khan got involved in gang-related criminality but the witness said: ‘I didn’t know anything about that. Usman kept everything to himself.’ 

After an incident where Khan hit someone with a brick and received a police caution, the witness said he ‘told him off’ but that his brother told him it was because someone had sworn at him.

In 2008, Khan became involved with distributing extremist literature and during this time the house where he was staying was raided.

‘The time he got raided, we got really worried about him. We asked ”what’s going on?” He was saying ”I’ve done nothing wrong”,’ the witness said. 

Later, Khan pleaded guilty to involvement in a plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange and admitted planning to set up a terrorist training camp in Pakistan which might send fighters back to the UK.

The witness said the family only found out details of the plot on the news and said: ‘It was a total shock. It was a total shock. It was unbelievable.’

Asked if he had any suspicion that his sibling had become involved in terrorism, he said: ‘Not at all. If we did we would be the first ones to inform, to stop him in his tracks.’

Khan was sent to prison from December 2010 until 2018 but relatives only spoke to him about ‘random things’ during visits, and not his offending, the court heard.

The witness said: ‘He was 19 and we thought he was so young, he was in prison as well, he was so young. 

Jack Merritt

Saskia Jones

Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt (left), 25, and Saskia Jones (right), 23, were stabbed by the terrorist during a Learning Together rehabilitation project event

Khan was pursued onto nearby London Bridge by three bystanders who were armed with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk in an attempt to disarm him

Khan was pursued onto nearby London Bridge by three bystanders who were armed with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk in an attempt to disarm him

‘We didn’t want to – in case in prison he loses the plot – we didn’t want to stress him.’

The jury heard that Khan threatened to stop his family visiting if they pushed him to discuss the case.

Khan’s brother said his attitude ‘seemed very positive’ upon his release from prison.

The witness said: ‘He was thinking about getting a job. He was very optimistic about the future, wanted to get married, have a family of his own.

‘We thought: ”Wow, he has (made) progress”.’

After his release from prison in 2018, the witness said Khan would regularly visit the family home but would routinely dismiss any queries from them about his past.  

The brother said: ‘He used to brush it off (and say) ‘don’t think about the past.”

‘We didn’t ask him about his current attitude on religion, but he didn’t seem religious.

‘From what it (his religion) was eight years back … he was a completely different person.’                    

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquests, asked: ‘In the course of the Sunday visits, the family never got a straight answer out of Usman and what got him into prison?’

The witness replied: ‘No. He said: ”I was young, I was silly, I got into stupid things”.’ 

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

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

The terrorist’s brother went on to say that when he saw Khan the Sunday before the Fishmongers’ Hall attack he was ‘absolutely normal’. 

On the day of the attack, the witness said he heard about the atrocity by reading Sky News at 6pm but did not immediately pay it much attention as he ‘completely forgot’ his brother was in London.

He then received a call from his mother, who was concerned Khan was ‘not picking his phone up’.

He told the inquests: ‘Then it hit me. I thought – ”whoa, no way”. This wasn’t in our wildest dreams. I thought he had been escorted by officers, he will be fine.

‘I said to my mum: ”Don’t worry, he couldn’t have gone on his own”.’

The witness said the concerns he and his mother had at that time were that Khan had been injured in the attack – not the belief that he was potentially responsible.

He said he went to his mother’s house to comfort her, during which time the police arrived.

The witness said: ‘Police said the person who was shot and killed was Usman Khan.’ 

During the inquest, Nick Armstrong, for the family of Jack Merritt, told the witness that despite his claims that his brother kept everything to himself, he was ‘literally standing in the street waving a flag’.     

The witness was shown pictures from local Stoke paper The Sentinel of Khan holding extremist leaflets and waving a jihadi flag in the street, as well as with extremist Anjem Choudary.    

Mr Armstrong said: ‘He (Khan) was a nasty, violent, self-regarding piece of work.

‘All the signs were there, and you looked away, didn’t you? You saw none of that.’ 

The inquests have previously heard how Khan was involved in a string of violent incidents and ‘extremist bullying’ during his eight years in seven prisons for planning a terrorist training camp, before being released on Christmas Eve 2018.

Jurors were also told Khan had been an ‘influential’ inmate who associated with other high-profile terrorists including Fusilier Lee Rigby’s killer.

He had engaged with prisoner education programme Learning Together while in jail, and he travelled to London from his home to attend a five-year celebration event at their request on November 29 2019.   

In the week prior to the terrorist attack, Khan had bought several items such as knives, a large coat and gaffer tape, and had cut his hair and trimmed his beard in ‘preparation for martyrdom’, police said.

On the day of the attack, Khan hid in a toilet cubicle, shaved his bodily hair, and armed himself with the knives, the inquest heard.  

He fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones- both part of the Learning Together scheme to help prisoners access education –  and injured three others, before telling those who tried to challenge him that he was ‘waiting for the police’.

Khan was pursued on to nearby London Bridge by three bystanders, armed with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk in an attempt to disarm him, where he was shot by police.

The inquests continue.

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.