PM warns early release ‘not working’ as London Bridge attacker was freed to kill

Boris Johnson has said the criminal justice system “simply isn’t working” after a convicted terrorist freed halfway through a 16-year prison sentence killed two people in the London Bridge attack.

Usman Khan, 28, stabbed to death a man and a woman in the knife rampage on Friday afternoon, leaving three other people injured.

The PA news agency understands one of those killed was Jack Merritt, a course co-ordinator for University of Cambridge-associated Learning Together, who was described by his father on Twitter as a “beautiful spirit”.

Khan was on licence and wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he attended a conference on prisoner rehabilitation hosted by Learning Together at Fishmongers’ Hall and reportedly “threatened to blow up” the building.

Incident on London Bridge
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, left, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the scene (Steve Parsons/PA)

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, Khan was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders, before he was shot dead by police on London Bridge next to the Hall.

Footage posted online shows Khan being taken to the ground as one man sprays him with a fire extinguisher and another, reportedly a Polish man who worked at the Hall, lunges towards him with a narwhal tusk believed to have been taken from the wall inside the building.

A plainclothes British Transport Police officer was pictured carrying a knife away from the scene.

It has also emerged that one of the people who helped tackle Khan was James Ford, who was jailed in 2004 for the motiveless murder in Kent of 21-year-old Amanda Ford, who had the mental age of a 15-year-old.

London Bridge terror attack
(PA Graphics)

In February 2012, Khan, who had been based in Stoke-on-Trent, was handed an open-ended indeterminate sentence for public protection, with a minimum term of eight years.

He was part of an al Qaida-inspired terror group – linked to radical preacher Anjem Choudary – that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.

A list of other potential targets included the names and addresses of the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, then London mayor Mr Johnson, two rabbis, and the American Embassy in London.

Usman Khan
Usman Khan was jailed in 2012 for terror offences (West Midlands Police/PA)

But the sentence for Khan, along with two co-conspirators, was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term, then freed on licence in December last year and made to wear the tag.

The Parole Board said it had no involvement in his release and that Khan “appears to have been released automatically on licence” halfway through his sentence.

Former chief crown prosecutor Nazir Afzal said the Government had been repeatedly warned of the risk posed by convicted terrorists being released from prison.

Speaking at the scene on Saturday, the Prime Minister said: “I’ve said for a long time that I think that the practice of automatic early release – where you cut a sentence in half and let really serious violent offenders out early – simply isn’t working.

“And I think you have good evidence of how that isn’t working, I’m afraid, with this case.”

Also visiting London Bridge, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed police are not actively seeking anyone else over the attack.

Officers have been searching a three-storey block of flats in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford, where Khan is believed to have lived.

Police officers outside flats in Woverhampton Road, Stafford, where a property is being searched by following Friday's attack
Police outside flats in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford, where Khan lived (Matt Cooper/PA)

Meanwhile, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have sent a message of sympathy to those killed and affected by the “terrible violence”, and praised the “brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others”.

The attack came weeks after the UK’s terrorism threat level was downgraded to “substantial” from “severe”, meaning attacks were thought to be “likely” rather than “highly likely”.

Home Secretary Priti Patel made the announcement on November 4 – days after Parliament voted to hold an early election.

London Bridge was the scene of a terror attack in 2017 – also during a general election campaign – when eight victims were killed along with the three terrorists, who were also wearing fake suicide vests and armed with knives.

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