Ex-con who fought London terrorist now friends with victim's father

The ex-convict who battled London Bridge terrorist with a fire extinguisher reveals he’s become friends with the father of victim Jack Merritt

  • John Crilly, 49, was devastated when his mentor was killed a year ago today
  • Crilly had been on a prisoner rehabilitation programme after leaving prison
  • At a convention in London, Usman Khan killed Jack, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23
  • Crilly has now said that he has become friends with Jack’s father, David Merritt

The ex-convict who battled the London Bridge terrorist with a fire extinguisher has revealed he’s become friends with the father of victim Jack Merritt.

John Crilly, 49, was devastated when Merritt – his mentor on a prisoner rehabilitation scheme – was stabbed to death by jihadist Usman Khan a year ago today.

The 25-year-old Cambridge graduate had encouraged Mr Crilly to start a law degree behind bars, and was his guest of honour when he graduated after his release.

Now, the hero ex-convict has spoken of how he turns to Jack’s father David for guidance, saying he has forgiven Khan – because that’s what Jack would have wanted.

Mr Crilly keeps in contact with the Merritt family, and has arranged for a socially distanced meeting for the one-year anniversary of the brutal attack that also left Jack’s fellow graduate Saskia Jones, 23, dead. 

John Crilly, right, has spoken of how he has become friends with the father of Jack Merritt, 25 (left) who died following the terror attack during a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29 last year. Mr Crilly tried to fight off Jack’s killer with a fire extinguisher

‘I have conversations with Jack’s dad regularly,’ Mr Crilly said, speaking to the Sunday Mirror ahead of today’s anniversary.

‘He says he doesn’t want what his son sacrificed to be in vain. He is so encouraging. Jack’s parents are always giving me support when it’s me who should be supporting them.’

‘It’s no surprise Jack turned out to be who he was with the foundations they laid with him,’ he said. ‘His dad told me, “Jack would want you to put yourself first, concentrate on getting better and go from there”.’ 

Sharing David Merritt’s message, Mr Crilly said that people ‘should borrow Jack’s intelligence, share his drive, and extinguish hatred with kindness’. 

In the midst of the attack, which began at an offender rehabilitation conference in Fishmonger’s Hall next to London Bridge on the north-side of the Thames, Mr Crilly grabbed a fire extinguisher in an attempt to fight off Khan, 28. 

He added that Jack would have wanted others to consider what Khan might have been going through to lead him to such actions, saying that people – including Jack’s parents – are asking what went wrong in his life.

Forgiving him, he says, ‘keep’s Jack’s memory alive’ by showing his power. 

David, from Cottenham in Cambridgeshire, confirmed he was meeting John from a distance ‘just to say hi’ adding that he is a lovely guy who has ‘really worked hard to turn his life around’, according to The Mirror.

Saskia Jones, 23, a fellow graduate of Jack Merritt’s who was also working with the prisoner rehabilitation programme, was also killed by Khan

Last year, in the wake of the attacks, Mr Crilly had described Jack Merritt was ‘the best guy I ever met’.

Khan attacked five people including the graduates, armed with two kitchen knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, before he was tackled by Mr Crilly and several others on London Bridge.

He was then shot dead by police at point-blank range.

Mr Crilly had served 13 years in prison after being convicted of murdering 71-year-old Augustine Maduemezia, but his conviction was quashed after a Supreme Court ruling and he was released in 2018.

The court said the joint enterprise law – where defendants were prosecuted for murder even if they did not strike the fatal blow – had been misinterpreted.

John Crilly is seen attempting to fight off Usman Khan with a fire extinguisher as another bystander is shown using a narwhal tusk on London Bridge. Khan was later shot dead by police on the bridge

Mr Crilly met Mr Merritt while in prison, where the graduate from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, was a course co-ordinator for the Learning Together programme.

The 48-year-old studied for an Open University law degree while in prison and graduated this year.

Speaking after his release last year, Mr Crilly said: ‘I had a bad life, I’ve changed it, I wasn’t guilty of murder.

‘I totally accept what I did and it was wrong … I would have done the time, I would have done every day of that.’

Family of Fishmonger’s Hall terror attack victim SUE the government after their son, 25, was stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan while he was out of prison on licence 

The family of a Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack victim are suing the Government over his death. 

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were fatally stabbed by Usman Khan, who was out on licence, during a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29 last year.

Khan, 28, attended the event, organised by Cambridge University’s Learning Together programme, armed with two kitchen knives wearing a fake suicide vest and killed Mr Merritt and Ms Jones before he was shot dead by police. 

Mr Merritt’s parents, Anne and David, along with his brother Joe and his girlfriend Leanne O’Brien, are now taking legal action against the Ministry of Justice and the Home Office at the High Court.

Their solicitor Kate Maynard said that Khan was a convicted terrorist under multi-agency public protection when he killed Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, which raises ‘questions about the assessment and management of Usman Khan’s risk’.

Ms Maynard, a partner at Hickman and Rose, said that ‘where state agents or public bodies, by their acts or omissions, may have caused or contributed to a death’, the right to life under the European Convention on Human Rights is engaged. 

Jack Merritt, 25, who died following the terror attack during a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29 last year

She added that the Merritt family had ‘no alternative’ but to bring their case this week, shortly before the one-year time limit for claims brought under the Human Rights Act, in order to ‘protect their position’.

Ms Maynard said that ‘all the relevant public bodies who are legally represented at the inquest’ had reached a ‘standstill agreement’ with the family – except for the MoJ and the Home Office, which she said ‘unfathomably’ did not agree.

Ms Maynard said families ‘normally’ reach an agreement with public bodies they may take legal action against ‘so that proceedings do not have to be seriously contemplated or issued until after all the investigations are completed, including an inquest’.

She added that such civil cases are ‘often’ resolved after an inquest ‘without involving the courts at all’.

But Ms Maynard said: ‘In this case, all the relevant public bodies who are legally represented at the inquest and were approached agreed to a limitation holiday for one year, except – unfathomably – the Secretaries of State for Justice and the Home Department.

‘Regrettably, this left the family with no alternative but having to turn their minds to protecting their position by issuing proceedings, at a time when they were otherwise focusing their attention on celebrating Jack’s life on the anniversary of his death.’

Last month a court heard that the Prevent team dealing with the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker had ‘no specific training’ in handling convicted terrorists.      

At a pre-inquest hearing, lawyer for Mr Merritt’s family Nick Armstrong suggested there was already evidence of a ‘systemic problem’ as ‘all the Prevent officers from Staffordshire’ said they had ‘no specific training in handling terrorist offenders’.  

Saskia Jones, 23, died following a terror attack at London Bridge after convicted terrorist Usman Khan went on a knife rampage 

He told the court that the monitoring of Khan had been ‘handed over by West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit to the Staffordshire unit for reasons that remain to be explored and all of them are saying they have no specific training.’   

Henry Pitchers QC, for Ms Jones’s family, pointed out that Khan had been assessed as the ‘highest level of risk’ and had 22 licence conditions on his release.  

Mr Pitchers told the court: ‘We know he was a convicted terrorist, he had been out of prison for less than a year when this attack occurred.

‘We know and it won’t be disputed that he was subject to supervision and was also supervised by the probation services and relatively frequent contact they had with him.

‘As I understand it he was screened prior to release by police, released and assessed as being at the highest level of risk.

‘Looking at the evidence we’ve seen, his last unannounced visit from police officers was… Around two weeks before the attack.

‘They arrived at midday, found the flat to be dark, you see Mr Khan wasn’t happy about them taking pictures of his X-box games and he asked to speak to a solicitor. He asked them to leave which they did.’ 

Mr Pitchers questioned whether the Prevent team or probation ‘should have had an inkling’ of the immediate danger Khan posed – he was convicted of being part of an al-Qaeda-inspired cell which plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange and kill Boris Johnson in 2012. 

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