Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack victim Saskia Jones was comforted by a former prison inmate who told her she was “loved and beautiful” in her final moments, the inquest into her death heard today.
Ms Jones and Mr Merritt were both involved with the organisation putting on the event, Learning Together, which helps prisoners with their rehabilitation through education.
Gareth Evans, a former prison inmate who had been helped by the Learning Together project since 2015, was at the conference, and rushed downstairs to help after hearing the initial screams.
“The first thing I saw was Saskia”, he told the inquest. “She was walking towards me, she was pale and she was holding her neck.
“She collapsed as I caught her. As she let go of her neck, there was a lot of blood.”
Mr Evans said Ms Jones tried to say the word “please” as he set her down on to the stairs.
“I was talking to her”, he said. “I was just trying to make sure she felt comfortable, so I said that she was loved and she was beautiful.”
Prison guard Adam Roberts took over attempts to help and then revive Ms Jones, but told the inquest she lost too much blood from the injury to her neck.
After stabbing Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, Khan, 28, was tackled by a group of conference attendees, who used makeshift weapons including a wooden lectern, a chair, a fire extinguisher, a narwhal tusk, and a decorative pike to try to subdue him.
Jurors have heard the first people to hear the screams and see the commotion mistook it for “play-fighting”, before realising a terrorist attack was in progress.
Marc Conway, a policy officer with the Prison Reform Trust, told the hearing this morning: “I could see people fighting with Usman Khan.
“I thought people were messing about, then when I looked more closely I saw Usman Khan with his back to me and people moving out of his way, hitting him.
“I turned to the side and I saw the knives in his hand.”
He added: “Before I realised it was serious I said to people ‘they’re messing about in there, we’ve been invited to this nice building and you’re playing up’.
“Then I realised, and I said he’s got a knife, two big knives. It became apparent something serious was happening.”
Mr Evans described Khan as “hysterical” during the attack, as he was cornered and then eventually left the hall and headed towards London Bridge.
Mr Roberts said he heard Khan shout out “get the f***ing police” repeatedly.
Mr Conway was among the group who pursued Khan on to the bridge, tackling him with their makeshift weapons and trying to remove the knives he had strapped to his hands.
He said during the tussle it became apparent Khan was wearing what appeared to be a suicide vest.
“I just wanted to help”, he said. “When someone said he’s got a bomb, and you realise that he’s got a belt round him, you felt like you was fighting for your life.
“I stamped on his hands, I may have put a few kicks in.
“One of the knives we managed to get rid of quite quickly, but the other was quite difficult to get off him.
“After a couple of shouts of ‘bomb, bomb’, I heard what I thought was a Taser. “After a couple of seconds they (police) shot him (Usman Khan) twice.”
The inquest before coroner Mark Lucraft QC continues.