Fishmongers’ Hall inquest comes to a conclusion

Fri, 28 May 2021

The jury has delivered its conclusions following the 7-week inquest investigating the death of Saskia Jones, and Jack Merritt, who were killed by a terrorist attacker in November 2019 when attending an event at the Fishmongers’ Hall at London Bridge. The jury have recorded a verdict of unlawful killing, and concluded that failings by a number of agencies probably contributed to the deaths of Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt.

Henry Pitchers QC, Philip Rule and Ramya Nagesh, of No5 Barristers' Chambers, represent the family of Saskia Jones. They are instructed by Alice Hardy, Cormac McDonough and Guy Mitchell, and the team, at Hodge Jones & Allen solicitors.

The inquest was conducted by His Honour Judge Lucraft QC, former Chief Coroner of England and Wales, and a jury of 11.  

Evidence has been heard concerning the matters that lead to the November 2019 terror attack which left two young people dead - the murdered victims of a known terrorist offender. The attacker was at the time under probation supervision, overt police management under terrorism legislation, and a covert security services investigation – but was allowed to attend the event unaccompanied and unchecked.

Henry Pitchers QC said:

“It has been a privilege for us to represent the family of Saskia Jones at these inquests.  The thorough investigation of the facts has revealed a tragic sequence of failings by those responsible for keeping Saskia and the general public safe.”

Philip Rule said:

“I wish to record my admiration for the dignity and strength of the family of Saskia. Throughout a long and difficult process Saskia’s mother, uncles, aunt and other relatives and friends have maintained composure and measure, made all the more challenging in the face of hearing of the numerous failures by so many individuals to have acted in a manner that would – and should – have prevented Saskia’s tragic death.”

Ramya Nagesh said:

“I would like to echo my admiration for the dignity and courage of Saskia’s family throughout this entire process. It has been a genuine privilege for me to represent them.”

The family have issued a statement to explain the concerns that arise from the evidence that has been heard, available here.

Saskia’s mother also provided details to the inquest regarding Saskia. She explained Saskia’s nature and that she would hope that no other family is devastated and heartbroken again in similar circumstances. Saskia was someone who battled to improve the lives of others and was driven to make real changes in the world. She was passionate about helping others and had set her path on Victim Support within the Police Force to continue to make her positive impact on others who faced challenging situations to give them hope and a way forward. The family and friends of Saskia continue to endure personal grief as a result of this unnecessary loss of such a wonderful daughter, niece and friend.

The Coroner has ruled that Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights 1950 applies and that this investigation must answer in what circumstances the victims came by their deaths. The jury has been asked to consider its findings and conclusions as to the important questions as to whether there was some error, omission or circumstance that caused or contributed to the two deaths; or such that may have possibly caused or contributed to the two deaths.

The jury considered the state agencies’ involvement in failings in the management of the offender, and in the sharing of information and guidance by agencies responsible for monitoring/investigation of Usman Khan. It was also asked to consider any omission or deficiency in the organisation of and security measures for the event at Fishmongers’ Hall which contributed to the deaths of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, for which Learning Together or the Fishmongers’ Company are responsible.

The jury recorded a verdict of unlawful killing. The jury also concluded that “missed opportunities” in the way that Usman Khan was investigated by the Security Services and the police probably contributed to the deaths of the victims. The jury had heard that there was intelligence in late 2018 to suggest that Usman Khan intended to “return to his old ways” and to commit an attack after release. Although that intelligence was passed to Special Branch police, the jury heard that it was not communicated to those responsible for managing Khan in the community.

Additionally, the jury found that failings and omissions in the way that Khan was managed in the community was a contributory factor in the deaths of both Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt. Deficiencies in the security arrangements at the event, which was organised by the prison education programme Learning Together (of Cambridge University), also contributed to their deaths.

In the coming months, the Coroner, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, will go on to consider setting out lessons from the inquest in a Prevent of Future Deaths report.

Further information

The website for the Inquests, carrying a full copy of the previous ruling and directions, is available here

https://fishmongershallinquests.independent.gov.uk/documents/

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