The first victim of the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack was stabbed 12 times as he tried to defend himself from an ambush in the toilets, the inquest has heard.
Cambridge University graduate Jack Merritt, 25, was knifed through the chest by Usman Khan after finding himself alone with the killer, and managed to stagger to a nearby office before he eventually collapsed.
Khan, a convicted terrorist, had made his final preparation for the atrocity in a toilet cubicle, strapping a knife to each hand.
After attacking Mr Merritt, he left the toilets and stabbed 23-year-old Saskia Jones in the neck as she was checking her coat into the cloakroom.
Watch: New pictures from 2019 London Bridge attack show narwhal tusk-wielding bystander pursuing attacker
In the five-minute rampage, the extremist - who was wearing a fake suicide vest - stabbed three more people before he was ultimately tackled on London Bridge and shot dead by armed police.
On the first day of the inquests into the deaths of Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, Detective Chief Inspector Dan Brown revealed how the attack unfolded on November 29, 2019.
Khan was one of the attendees at an event hosted by Learning Together, an organisation dedicated to helping the rehabilitation of prisoners.
The inquest heard Khan and Mr Merritt, a course coordinator for Learning Together, had been in touch before the day of the stabbings as part of the rehabilitation effort.
During the event, Khan was pictured enjoying brunch and sitting at the same table as Ms Jones.
The inquest hearing, at the Guildhall in the City of London, was told Khan, 28, went to the toilets to prepare himself for the atrocity during a mid-afternoon break.
Mr Merritt had his photo taken by colleagues before excusing himself to use the toilet, where he encountered Khan at around 1.56pm.
“Only Khan and Jack were inside this area at this time”, said DCI Brown. “From the blood pattern analysis we are able to assess that Jack was attacked at this location by Khan, leaving that cubicle. He had knives in both hands, taped to the gloves he was wearing.”
He said a “crude” attempt had been made to inscribe a symbol for ‘Allah’ on to the blades of the knives.
DCI Brown said police later found Khan’s bag in the toilet cubicle, along with scissors, tape he had used to strap the weapons to his hands, and a spare kitchen knife. He is believed to have dropped his prayer book during the attack on Mr Merritt.
“He made his final preparations in the left-hand cubicle before coming out. We assume he encountered Jack and that is when Khan attacked Jack”, said DCI Brown, who said Mr Merritt suffered 12 injuries including “defensive” wounds.
The hearing was told Khan left the toilets and entered the cloakroom where Ms Jones, also a Cambridge University graduate and aspiring police officer, was checking-in her coat.
“(Khan) initially made a gesture towards the lady member of staff as if to be quiet”, said the officer. “Then he approached Saskia. He stabbed her once to the neck.
“She managed to get out of the cloakroom area and staggered to the bottom of the stairs. She managed to get up three or four steps before she collapsed.”
Mr Merritt sought refuge in a nearby office and was briefly caught on CCTV with blood-stained clothing. He was given first aid but died at the scene.
DCI Brown said Khan then attacked Stephanie Szczotko, who was stabbed once in the arm, and targeted Izzy Rowbotham in the reception of the hall.
Attendees at the event, John Crilly, Steven Gallant and Darryn Frost, grabbed items to fight back against Khan, using a narwhal tusk, a decorative pike, and a fire extinguisher to try to pin him down, the hearing was told. A porter who joined in the attempts to tackle Khan also suffered stab injuries.
Khan then “returned to Izzy Rowbotham and stabbed her again as she was laying prone on the ground”, said DCI Brown.
He managed to get out of Fishmongers Hall by threatening a security guard with a knife, forcing him to open the front door.
“Khan started to run towards various members of the public on the bridge”, said DCI Brown. “At that point the three individuals caught him and began trying to subdue him.”
Khan was eventually shot dead by police, after armed officer spotted he appeared to be wearing an explosive suicide vest. The vest was later revealed to be a fake.
The inquest has been told Khan was a convicted terrorist, who served eight years in prison and was released shortly before carrying out the deadly attack.
DCI Brown said he believes Khan strapped the fake suicide vest to his waist during a seven-minute trip to the toilet in his train ride down from Staffordshire.
He said officers have never found the grey tape roll used to attach the vest, and he is thought to have bought a new, large coat to conceal the homemade device.
A jury has been sworn to hear the inquests during the next nine weeks. The hearing continues.
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