London Bridge inquest: attacker ‘seemed puzzled’ by tusk standoff

Coroner praises pursuers' bravery after inquest hears Usman Khan threatened to set off suicide vest

The convicted terrorist Usman Khan threatened to set off a suicide vest as a bystander confronted him with a narwhal tusk at London’s Fishmongers’ Hall, an inquest has heard.
Darryn Frost, a civil servant, poked the tusk into Khan’s stomach after he had stabbed Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at a prisoner rehabilitation event in the hall on 29 November 2019.

Giving evidence at an inquest into their deaths, Frost described the subsequent standoff with Khan. He said: “He still held the knives above him, but he glanced down at the narwhal tusk, and he glanced back up at me, and he kind of paused for a while. He seemed puzzled or a bit defeated by having this long object pointed at his belly.”

At this point Khan threatened to set off a suicide vest that later turned out be a fake device. “He said to me: ‘I’m not here for you. I’m here for the police,’” Frost recalled. “The attacker motioned downwards with his head and he said ‘I’ve got a bomb’. I could see what looked like an explosive device around his waist.”

Moments later Steve Gallant, a prisoner on day release, threw a heavy mahogany chair at Khan, Frost said. Still holding the tusk to Khan’s stomach, Frost then passed the makeshift weapon to Gallant.

Frost went to fetch a second tusk while Gallant used the first tusk to “whack” Khan until it broke into pieces, the inquest was told.

Later, Khan was chased out of the building and towards London Bridge by Frost, Gallant and John Crilly, a former prisoner who had been helped by Learning Together, the organisation hosting the event.

Khan stumbled and fell after Frost hit him with the second tusk, and Crilly sprayed him with a fire extinguisher, the inquest heard. Crilly then hit Khan in the head and hand with the extinguisher and managed to take one of the knives from him, the inquest jury was told.

Frost said he tried to pin down Khan by lying on top of him and tried to prevent his hands from reaching the vest.

“In my mind the police arrival was his trigger to blow everyone up. I shouted something to the effect of ‘I’ve got his hands, he can’t kill anyone else’. I just kept trying to hold his hands away from the belt and away from me,” he said.

Frost said he also wanted to prevent the police from shooting Khan. “I didn’t want him to be shot because his statement made me believe that he wanted to die. And I had seen the chaos he had caused in the hall. And I didn’t want him to have the satisfaction of his choice when he took away others’.”

Frost said he eventually got off Khan when he had doubts about the suicide vest. “I had a moment of hesitation thinking that maybe the bomb is fake. And maybe I should let go … I thought I was risking getting shot in the head.” Moments later Khan was shot dead by the police.

The coroner, Mark Lucraft QC, thanked Frost for what he called his “amazing bravery”.

Crilly, in a statement to the police read to the inquest, described seeing Khan standing with two large knives, shouting and jumping about. “He was going nuts, he was shouting Allahu Akbar,” he said.

Crilly said the struggle with Khan was like a comedy sketch as he used a lectern, an ornamental chair and a fire extinguisher to fend him off. “Obviously it was a lot more serious, but it was bit like Benny Hill. I was just running around trying to distract him. Trying to stay out of the way of the blades, because he kept coming for me.”

He said he tried to distract Khan from stabbing Lisa Ghiggini, an administrator with Learning Together, by discussing his suicide belt. Crilly said: “I’ve got out of a few sticky situations in the past just bluffing it. I got Lisa out the way.”

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, read out Crilly’s police statement about the encounter. “You said: ‘What the fuck you got there?’ Usman said: ‘I’m going to blow you up.’ You responded: ‘It’s fucking fake, blow it.’”

Lucraft also thanked Crilly and Gallant for their bravery. The inquest continues.

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