A witness to the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack in central London has described holding one of the victims in his arms and telling her she was loved as she lay dying.
Gareth Evans, a former HMP Grendon inmate, told an inquest into the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt that he had comforted Jones after she was stabbed by Usman Khan, a convicted terrorist, at a prisoner education event on 29 십일월 2019.
Evans, giving evidence at the Guildhall in the City of London, said Jones had collapsed as he took hold of her. Appearing to wipe his eyes, he told the jury on Monday: “I was trying to make sure she felt comfortable and safe. I said she was loved and she was beautiful.”
He had rushed to her aid after she was stabbed in the neck by Khan, who had been seen chatting to her at the Learning Together anniversary event.
Adam Roberts, a prison officer, also described how he tried to stem the bleeding and got Jones, 23, in a protective hug, as an “aggressive” Khan, armed with two knives and wearing what appeared to be a suicide belt, stood feet away.
Roberts, who had escorted a prisoner, Steven Gallant, to the event at Fishmongers’ Hall on day release, said he had tried to stem the bleeding with his jacket and tried to shield her.
“It was an attempt to stop the bleeding, but it was almost working out like a hug, and telling her to look at me and not him, so she was looking at someone who was trying to help her rather than something else. It was an attempt to stop the bleeding and give her a chance.”
Describing Khan’s behaviour, Roberts said: “Aggressive, a very fronting-up sort of stance, with his knives clearly showing, generally being aggressive and shouting.”
He was moving backwards and forwards making “false charges”, the jury heard, “almost coaxing people to come towards him, but almost like he didn’t want them to”.
Marc Conway, a policy officer with the Prison Reform Trust, said he had initially thought people were play-fighting when he looked through the door into the foyer of Fishmongers’ Hall.
“I thought people were messing about, then when I looked more closely I saw Usman Khan with his back to me and people moving out of his way, hitting him. I turned to the side and I saw the knives in his hand.”
Conway said bystanders had tried to hit Khan with various items, including a wooden chair, in an attempt to stop him. But he said Khan “wasn’t reacting in a way I think someone hit with a chair would react. There was some added motivation or strength there that I hadn’t seen before.”
Conway said he had phoned 999 and had seen Khan burst out of Fishmongers’ Hall, making his way on to London Bridge, before turning to face those in pursuit, appearing to cross the knives he was holding across his face as he did so.
Conway then ran across the bridge to try to help wrestle the knives from Khan, before realising that he had what appeared to be an explosive belt strapped to him.
Khan was tackled by members of the public with a decorative pike, narwhal tusk and fire extinguisher, and was then shot dead by police on London Bridge.
Conway said: “I just wanted to help. When someone said he’s got a bomb, and you realise that he’s got a belt round him, you felt like you was fighting for your life.”
The jury inquests, taking place before coroner Mark Lucraft QC, continue.