The first of the medics and police to respond to the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist attack have described the scene that confronted them as they rushed to try to save the people who had been injured, while keeping their colleagues and the public safe from a suspected bomb attack.
Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were both killed in the knife attack by the convicted terrorist Usman Khan on 29 November 2019.
An inquest has heard that the decision to send medics into a “warm zone” – the area around where a terror attack has taken place – was unprecedented, but that the need to do so was great.
“It was a scene of devastation,” said one armed officer, who entered Fishmonger’s Hall shortly after Khan launched his attack.
The officer, named as YX97, told the jury of the chaos he found as he tried to make sure the injured people got the care they needed, while also dealing with reports that Khan – who was lying on London Bridge, having been shot by the police – was still armed with a bomb.
“I literally threw the defibrillator and first aid kit at the officer [in Fishmongers’ Hall] and told them to ‘keep everyone inside – he has an IED’,” he said.
Police officers – including Sgt Darren Settle, who was the acting inspector on the day – described going into the situation without a clear idea of what awaited them.
Settle told the jury he heard a call of “shots fired, shots fired” over the radio as he raced towards the scene – but said he had no idea whether there were other attackers or how much police backup he would have when he arrived.
The London Ambulance Service paramedic Carlton Cullinan, who is trained to work in a “warm zone”, went into the hall ahead of the Helicopter Emergency Medical Service (Hems) team, the court heard. He said the scene was “just generally messy and chaotic”. Several of the witnesses said they could see that some of those wounded had already lost a lot of blood.
Dr Andrew Milne was part of the Hems team that went to the scene in a fast-response car after being alerted to a woman stabbed in the neck.
On arrival, he learned of gunshots and that the suspect potentially had a bomb. He told the hearing at the Guildhall on Thursday that the Fishmongers’ Hall attack was the first time a Hems team had gone into a “warm zone”, confirming it was “unprecedented”.
He told jurors: “There is no specific guidance. No Hems team, as far as I’m aware, had entered a warm zone before this day.”
Milne said: “There was one officer that was instructing us on the number of casualties – five critical, including two in cardiac arrest. We were told where it was. He said it was a warm zone but very specifically said it was safe. So … we decided to follow the police into Fishmongers’ Hall.”
Entering the hall shortly after the attack, the Hems team did a “walkaround” to assess the casualties. 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.”
Khan, a convicted terrorist, fatally stabbed Cambridge University graduates Merritt and Jones at a Learning Together offenders’ education conference.
Merritt suffered 12 knife wounds, including a fatal injury to his chest. Jones was stabbed in the neck in the cloakroom area and staggered on to the stairs, where she collapsed. Two more women and a porter were also injured but survived. The hearing continues.