Fishmongers’ Hall heroes tearful as they recall tackling terrorist Usman Khan with fire extinguisher and narwhal tusk

Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones were killed by Usman Khan in the attack. Credit: PA

Three men who tackled the Fishmongers' Hall terrorist with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk, helping to bring his murderous rampage to an end, have given dramatic accounts of their actions in court.

Convicted terrorist Usman Khan stabbed to death Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, and injured three other people before running out of the building and on to London Bridge where he was shot dead by police.

The 28-year-old, who had two large knives and a fake suicide belt, was detained on the bridge by three men who chased him from the central London venue where the Learning Together offender educational conference was taking place.

Ex-prisoner John Crilly hosed Khan with a fire extinguisher and communications manager Darryn Frost jabbed at Khan with a narwhal tusk, sending him off balance.

Unarmed inmate Steven Gallant then tackled Khan to the ground, where all three restrained him until armed police arrived.

Usman Khan at Bank station on his way to attend a prisoner education event at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Giving evidence at the inquest into the victims’ deaths, Mr Gallant said he “whacked” Khan with a narwhal tusk but was empty-handed by the time of the battle on the bridge.

Mr Gallant said: “He (Khan) stopped and turned around, possibly frustrated by our perseverance.

“I remember my hands going towards him. I grabbed his jacket, two hands.

“I grabbed him, tried to swing him round. He was very quick, a lot of movement going on, somehow I managed to grab him to the floor.”

He added: “I had done a little bit of wrestling so I knew how to pin people to the floor.”

A crowd of bystanders soon gathered and somebody suggested to “give him a kicking”, Mr Gallant said.

He told jurors: “I said no, we had control of him at that time. It would make it more difficult.”

Mr Gallant said Khan managed to get up, so he gave the suspect “a couple of uppercuts to the face”, which he said helped to “stun him a little bit”.

John Crilly could be seen carrying a fire extinguisher on CCTV as he left Fishmongers’ Hall Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Mr Crilly said he thought Khan knew he was “in trouble” on the bridge.

Mr Crilly said: “Luckily Darryn hit him with the spike and he lost his balance.

“It just seemed to knock him off balance. I think he was on his way, then Steve put him down.”

Mr Crilly said he hit Khan over the head with the extinguisher and wrestled a knife from him, adding: “This guy was trying to kill us.”

Armed police arrived and ordered the three men to get back.

On his reaction, the witness said: “Armed police – I got off quick. I was telling them to shoot the b******.

“They were shouting at him to stand still.

"I was telling them he’s just killed people, he’s got a bomb just shoot him.”

He told jurors that Khan was Tasered before being shot.

John Crilly giving evidence during the inquest into the terror attack at Fishmongers’ Hall Credit: right

Mr Frost feared Khan might set off the bomb once police arrived, as he had threatened to do.

“I said: ‘I’ve got his hands, he can’t kill anyone else, I won’t let him kill anyone else.’

“I didn’t want him to be shot. His statement that he was waiting for the police meant he wanted to die,” he said.

Mr Frost, his voice trembling with emotion, said: “I saw the chaos he had caused in the hall – I didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of his choice when he had taken that away from others.”

The prison and probation service communications manager continued to hold Khan, despite police telling him to let go.

He said: “There was a struggle for a while and when Khan saw I wasn’t releasing him he seemed to relax a little.

“He looked up at the officer and very gently said: ‘I’ve got a bomb, I’ve got a bomb.’

“The police shouted: ‘He’s got a bomb’. He seemed so distressed, his voice broke.”

After he moved back, Mr Frost said he heard “three cracks and an echo”.

Communications manager Darryn Frost carrying a narwhal tusk which he used to try to disarm Usman Khan on London Bridge Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Believing the device had been set off, he said: “I thought then that everyone was dead in the near vicinity, including the police I was trying to protect.”

But when he looked at Khan he deduced that he had been shot, he said.

Earlier, Mr Crilly appeared close to tears as he recalled events leading to the standoff.

He told jurors at the Guildhall in London that he had been speaking with a mentor when he heard screams.

As he made his way downstairs, he saw Ms Jones “bleeding and in a lot of pain”.

As another delegate rushed to help her, Mr Crilly said he went to confront Khan.

“Obviously, he had two big knives," he told the hearing. "It was apparent straightaway, no missing them.

"He was shouting and screaming... I think he was speaking Arabic.

"As I got closer to him, I tried to engage with him. In response to me talking to him, he started shouting ‘Allahu Akhbar’.

“As I got closer to him I could see the belt as well. It looked like a black bodybuilding belt with bits stuck to it – a bit of a contraption but it was pretty obvious what it was.

“I instantly knew it was a terrorist attack and that was a suicide belt.”

Steven Gallant and Jack Merritt at a Learning Together training course. Credit: PA

When a woman came towards him in a “trance”, Mr Crilly said he tried to distract Khan.

He said: “I started shouting ‘What the f*** are you doing? What’s going on?

“He says: ‘I’m going to kill you all. You are motherf****** dead’.”

Mr Crilly said he went on to try to “call his bluff”, asking him: “What the f*** is that round your waist?

"Is that supposed to be a suicide belt?”

He told jurors: “I was trying to engage with him. He started saying things like ‘I’ll blow it, I’m waiting for the police’. At this point it just went nuts. I say it was a bit like Benny Hill, I was running round trying to distract him.”

Usman Khan claimed he was wearing a suicide vest during the attack. Credit: PA

He said Khan kept coming for him and he grabbed a lectern and threw it at him, but it “just bounced off”.

“Every time I did something like that he came for me with the knives, so I backed off again.”

Khan made his way back into the foyer, where he began stabbing Izzy Rowbotham, jurors heard.

Khan stabbed her twice, shouting “Allahu Akhbar”, before Mr Crilly intervened by hitting him with an ornamental chair, he said.

“I picked it up and swung it at him. It definitely knocked him across the room,” he said.

Mr Crilly then picked up a fire extinguisher and drove Khan back, jurors heard.

“I just sprayed him with it and it seemed to have an effect. He seemed to be struggling from the foam. He then came running through the foam with the knives, so I had to back off again.”

Khan then staggered outside and on to London Bridge, pursued by Mr Crilly, Mr Gallant and Mr Frost.

Mr Crilly said he screamed at people outside: “He’s got a bomb, get back.”

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the coroner, asked Mr Crilly: “Overall, what was your impression of how officers dealt with Khan?”

He replied: “They gave him opportunities to stop, to comply. I was telling them to get on with it.

“It seemed like an age. I was screaming at them to shoot him. It seemed to take ages, giving him plenty of time.”

Lawyers for the victims’ families and Coroner Mark Lucraft QC thanked the three witnesses for their acts of bravery on November 29, 2019.