Three men – a prisoner on day release, a reformed killer and a communications manager – came together as they tried to disarm a terrorist.
They relied on the combined might of an ornamental whale tusk plucked from the wall of Fishmongers’ Hall, a fire extinguisher found at the same location, and their own bare hands to subdue and eventually overcome 28-year-old Usman Khan, who was shot dead by police scrambled to the scene.
The Battle of London Bridge was recalled in second-by-second detail during inquests into the deaths of Khan’s victims, Cambridge graduates Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25.
A jury today (May 28) ruled the pair were unlawfully killed following a string of failures by authorities who were blinded by their killers’ “poster boy image”.
Steve Gallant, who met Mr Merritt through prisoner education programme Learning Together, said he initially “whacked” Khan with a narwhal tusk inside Fishmongers’ Hall but was empty-handed by the time he got to the bridge.
Mr Gallant, one of two men convicted of killing Barrie Jackson in Hull in 2005, had been allowed out on licence for the first time when Khan struck on November 29 2019.
Describing his role in containing Khan, Mr Gallant said: “I had done a little bit of wrestling so I knew how to pin people to the floor.”
He said Khan managed to get up, so he gave the suspect “a couple of uppercuts to the face” which helped to “stun him a little bit”.
A second man, Ministry of Justice communications manager Darryn Frost, wept in the witness box as he described refusing to let go of Khan, even though armed police yelled at him to do so.
He told the inquests: “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.”
Mr Frost, his voice trembling with emotion, added: “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 third man, former prisoner John Crilly, described how Khan lost his balance after Mr Frost and Mr Gallant struck him during a tense few seconds on the bridge.
It was then that Mr Crilly – who served 13 years in prison for murder before the conviction was quashed and he was resentenced for manslaughter – hit Khan over the head with a fire extinguisher.
He told the inquests: “I was telling (police) to shoot the bastard. I was telling them, ‘He’s just killed people, he’s got a bomb, just shoot him’.”
It came after several people in Fishmongers’ Hall tried to disarm Khan, including porter Lukasz Koczocik, who used a long ceremonial pike plucked from the walls of the Grade II-listed building.
He said: “Once I managed to land a strike on his (Khan’s) belly, he grabbed the pike in one hand, still holding the knives, and I couldn’t shake him off.
“He caught me in the hand and in the shoulder. I dropped the pike because he cut the tendon in my hands so I couldn’t grip it.”
Mr Koczocik said Mr Crilly and Mr Frost then chased Khan out on to the street, prompting him to warn nearby members of the public that Khan was armed.
Criminology graduate Stephanie Szczotko, who survived being stabbed by “expressionless” Khan in her arm and torso, said she remembered trying to raise her arm to defend herself during the attack.
Isobel Rowbotham, who worked part-time as an office manager for Learning Together, described how she had to “play dead” after being seriously injured by Khan.
Chief coroner Mark Lucraft QC commended those who challenged Khan after they concluded their evidence.