Failures by the National Probation Service, police and MI5 contributed to the deaths of two Cambridge graduates at Fishmongers’ Hall, London, in November 2019, a jury has found.
An inquest into the deaths of Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, ended on Friday after a jury concluded that both had been unlawfully killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who targeted attendees at a prisoner rehabilitation event.
Khan was allowed to travel to the event alone despite being released from prison 11 months before the incident.
During the attack, Khan, wearing a hoax suicide vest, killed Jones and Merritt with knives and was later shot dead by police on London Bridge.
The jury concluded there had been omissions or failings in the management of Khan by state agencies that had contributed to the two deaths.
Jurors also found, after the seven-week inquest, that there had been “unacceptable management and lack of accountability” and “serious deficiencies” under Multi-Agency Public Protection Arrangements (Mappa), through which police, probation and prison services work together to manage risks posed by offenders living in the community.
The inquest heard that from the time of Khan’s release in December 2018 up to the attack, he had been managed by the National Probation Service. He was subject to Mappa, involving meetings attended by probation, counter-terrorist police and, on occasion, MI5 officers.
The Fishmonger’s Hall attack has highlighted the difficulties in managing terrorist offenders who can be further radicalised and develop ties with fellow extremists while in prison.
The inquest heard that Khan had been regarded as an “influential” inmate who became involved in “extremist bullying” of other prisoners, while he “told lies or ticked boxes” to convince authorities he was a reformed character.
One of the jury’s most damaging findings was that police, probation officers and spies managing Khan had experienced a “blind spot” over the risk he posed, and that he had been held up as a “poster boy” by Cambridge university’s Learning Together programme, which organised the event.
Before his release from prison, MI5 received intelligence that Khan intended to “return to his old ways” after leaving jail, including aspiring to commit a terrorist attack, the inquest was told this month.
In giving evidence, a senior officer at the agency said this intelligence was “of unknown validity” and “uncorroborated”. MI5 raised Khan’s threat level, although this was not communicated to his probation officer Kenneth Skelton.
The jury concluded there had been omissions and failings in the sharing of information and guidance by the state agencies responsible for monitoring and investigating Khan, and a “missed opportunity for those with expertise and experience to give guidance”.
Jurors also found there were deficiencies in the security at the Fishmongers’ Hall event.
Assistant commissioner Neil Basu, head of counter-terrorism policing, said in a statement that the failings identified by the jury were “simply unacceptable”, adding: “I’m deeply sorry that we weren’t better . . . in November 2019.”
He said police had begun improvements to manage terrorist offenders towards the end of their prison sentences and better-trained counter-terrorism officers would be dedicated to handling offenders.
Priti Patel, home secretary, said: “The government and operational partners have taken important action since this tragic incident to strengthen the supervision of terror offenders on licence and end the automatic early release of terrorist prisoners.”
She said it was important that lessons were learnt to prevent further incidents and a counter-terrorism operations centre had since been established, bringing agencies together.