The convicted terrorist Usman Khan stopped getting regular mentor visits aimed at preventing him reoffending because of a Home Office contract dispute weeks before his deadly attack at Fishmongers’ Hall, an inquest has heard.
In November 2019, within a year of being released from prison on licence, Khan killed Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones at prison education event at the hall.
An inquest into their deaths was told that initially after his release Khan was “making progress” thanks in part to twice weekly visits from mentors under the government’s desistance and disengagement programme.
But these visits suddenly stopped in August due to a contractual dispute, the inquest was told. It also heard that this occurred at a “critical” stage when Khan was moving out of an approved probation hostel and struggling to find work. And weeks later police became alarmed about Khan becoming isolated, the inquest was told.
Phil Bromley, Khan’s counter-terrorism probation officer, confirmed to the inquest that Khan was progressing well with the help of the mentors in May 2019.
Jonathan Hough, QC, counsel for the inquest, read out an assessment Bromley made of Khan at the time. He said: “On 15 May 2019 you record that: ‘Usman Khan continues to make good progress. Working with a practical mentor twice a week, although this may reduce to once a week. Also engages with religious mentor once a month’.”
Hough told the inquest at the Guildhall, London, how these mentor arrangements came to a sudden halt.
He said: “He [Khan] had had these mentors coming to see him once or twice a week, and then it stopped, because I think of a contract issue between the companies that provide the mentors and the Home Office.”
Bromley confirmed the lack of mentors hampered Khan’s efforts to find work because under his licence arrangement he was not allowed to access the internet without supervision by a mentor.
He said he and Khan’s main probation officer, Ken Skelton, tried but failed to find replacement mentors. He said: “I don’t think we came up with a solution because of the time and what happened. We were looking at potentially either Mr Skelton or potentially I think it was Ixion who are an agency that we were working with with Mr Khan … but we never got there.”
Henry Pitchers QC, counsel to the family of Jones, read an email from Bromley in September 2019 expressing concern about the lack of mentors following the contractual dispute. Bromley’s email said: “We are at a point of transition for Usman given he’ll be moving on from approved premises soon, which is always a critical stage. So the timing isn’t great. So I would certainly support him being assigned another mentor if possible.”
Pitchers said: “We know that no mentoring took place in September, October, November, and that that lack of mentoring, would mean an absence of potentially protective factor.”
Bromley replied: “Yes.”
Weeks later police expressed concern about Khan becoming isolated and raised this at a multi-agency public protection arrangement (Mappa) meeting about Khan. Hough said: “Staffordshire special branch had concerns about him being socially isolated. And that was raised both in the Mappa meeting in November 2019, and in some email communications.”
Previewing evidence to come, Hough said: “We are likely to hear that seasoned professionals in this field had concerns or expressed concerns about Mr Khan being socially isolated, so not simply a business as usual matter but specific concerns.”
The inquest continues.