MI5 had intelligence that the Fishmongers’ Hall killer could be planning an attack after his release from prison and did not share it, the families of his victims have told a hearing.
Usman Khan stabbed and killed Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, two Cambridge University graduates working on a prison rehabilitation scheme during a conference at Fishmongers’ Hall in London in November 2019.
Khan, who had been released from prison a year earlier and was still on licence, was wearing a fake suicide belt and was shot dead by police on London Bridge.
A full inquest, due to start on April 12, will examine how the tragedy happened, and if it could have been stopped.
On Friday, coroner Mark Lucraft QC heard arguments from the victims’ families for individual MI5 officers to give evidence.
Nick Armstrong, for the Merritt family, argued MI5 ought to present the officers who made the decision not to pass on the information as witnesses.
“We do not want an overarching narrative, we want the facts, the detailed facts,” he told a hearing.
“This is about the level of risk Mr Khan represented, what was unknown about the risk and the decisions that were taken, to allow him to go to the Fishmongers’ Hall.
“The fact that he was in a high risk, category A, shortly before his release is significant. He spent much of his detention in special units and then went straight out into the community without proper scrutiny.”
Reports showed there were concerns that Khan held extremist views after he was jailed in 2016 and in 2017 and that he acted as a “recruiter” inside prison.
Khan had been involved in the radicalising of prisoners, had taken a senior role, and was encouraging violence in prisons, the pre-inquest hearing was told.
He was said to have had a lack of purpose, feeling of injustice, boredom and was feeling lost, “all matters, you may think were present in November 2019” when he launched his attack, Mr Armstrong said.
MI5 had reopened their investigation into Khan shortly before he was released from custody, the hearing was told.
“MI5 had intelligence shortly before release that he was planning a post-release attack. That is a matter of obviously great significance,” Mr Armstrong said.
It caused an “upgrade” in his categorisation from P4 to P3, the hearing was told.
“I assume, but don’t know that the intelligence for that decision will be the subject of a public interest immunity application”, to block it from release, Mr Armstrong said.
MI5 also had information that Khan was considering relocating to Pakistan and giving up British nationality, looked into it and found it was an issue in 2019.
Two weeks before the attack, police visited him in his flat and that “seems to have upset him”, Mr Armstrong said.
“If it had that happened earlier because of information shared earlier, might it have made a difference?”
Mr Armstrong said the question had to be asked why Khan was allowed to go to the Fishmongers’ Hall, a London landmark, when it “chimed” with his original involvement in a plot to attack the London Stock Exchange.
“The point of all this is that it will be said that serious people were looking at him very seriously,” Mr Armstrong said.
The probation service was already sceptical of what he was saying to them and “even a hint that he posed any risk may have made a difference”, the barrister said.
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