Convicted killer turned London Bridge hero mocks terrorist Usman Khan

Convicted killer who tackled London Bridge knifeman with a fire extinguisher hits out a ‘s***house Four Lions terrorist’ who murdered his friend and mentor Jack Merritt

  • John Crilly, 48, was mentored and befriended by Mr Merritt during his sentence
  • Crilly, who is on licence for manslaughter, chased down Usman Khan last Friday 
  • Dramatic footage showed Crilly fearlessly wielding a fire extinguisher at Khan 
  • Crilly said: ‘Why!? This guy, Jack Merrit, the best guy I ever met. Jack actually tried helping this guy! To educate him. As he educated me’

A convicted killer who tackled the London Bridge terrorist with a fire extinguisher has compared to extremist to the wannabe jihadis mocked in satirical film Four Lions.

John Crilly, an ex-prisoner who subdued Usman Khan during the knife rampage, posted on Facebook after the attack killed Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, two workers on the rehabiliation scheme he was part of.

Crilly wrote that Mr Merritt was ‘the best guy I ever met’, adding: ‘(Jack) was killed by a s***house of a pathetic rubber dingy rapids type terrorist.’

The quote is a reference to the 2010 film Four Lions, which mocks Islamist recruits who say life is like being in the queue at Alton Towers, waiting to get on the ‘rubber dingy rapids’ ride.

Mr Crilly added: ‘Jack actually tried helping this guy! To educate him. As he educated me.

‘Jack came all the way from Cambridge to be at my graduation… How proud am I to be called Jack Merritt’s friend.’

John Crilly (holding his degree certificate) is pictured on his graduation in Manchester with his mentor and ‘the best guy he ever met’ Jack Merrit, 25, who was murdered by Usman Khan last Friday

John Crilly is seen bravely wielding the fire extinguisher at Usman Khan after seeing him stab his friend and mentor Jack Merritt stabbed in the chest

John Crilly is seen bravely going after the jihadist with a fire extinguisher last Friday as another man wields a narwhal tusk

Mr Crilly’s friend, Michelle Crosby, said Mr Merritt would have been ‘proud’ of his actions on London Bridge.

She said: ‘You’ve been through such a trauma, your response was heroic, I’m sure your friend would be proud of you. We all are!

‘Such a s*** world Crilly but you lot took it on and didn’t let him win. RIP to Jack, thoughts are with you all.’

Crilly, a former heroin addict and career criminal, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2005 after a pensioner was killed by his accomplice in a botched burglary

Cambridge University graduates Mr Merritt and Saskia Jones, 23, were attacked by Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers’ Hall last Friday, where Mr Crilly was also present.

The pair were course co-ordinators on the Learning Together programme, which is aimed at bringing offenders and people in higher education together to ‘study alongside each other’.

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.  

Crilly was originally found guilty of murdering and robbing 71-year-old Nigerian businessman Augustine Maduemezia in Manchester on February 8, 2005.

Crilly, a former heroin addict, was initially jailed for life with a minimum term of 20 years in December 2005.

He spent 13 years in prison until his murder conviction was quashed following a Supreme Court ruling on joint enterprise law.

In April 2018 Crilly pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was re-sentenced to 18 years in prison.

He was told he would serve half of the sentence in prison, but having done time since 2005 he had already completed the nine years required and was released on license.

The Supreme Court ruled that the law on joint enterprise, where defendants are prosecuted for murder even if they did not strike the fatal blow, had been misinterpreted.

Astonishing footage last week showed Crilly and a man with a narwhal tusk leading the charge against Khan, before the terrorist was shot dead by police.  

A recent social media picture of John Crilly who was befriended by Mr Merritt through the Learning Together scheme at HMP Grendon, Buckinghamshire

Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt with his girlfriend Leanne O’Brien

One of Crilly’s friends, Michelle Feather, wrote on Facebook: ‘I honestly think your friend would be proud of you John Crilly for your actions, so many people could have died if it wasn’t for your quick thinking!! Be proud of yourself.

‘You’re a brave man John massive hugs to you!! Would have you by my side any day you deserve a medal.’ 

Mr Merritt had continued to meet with Crilly following his release and attended the convict’s Law graduation ceremony from the Open University. 

Crilly, who has blamed his years of criminality on drug addiction, was able to serve four years at HMP Grendon, which is uniquely based on therapeutic community principles to rehabilitate inmates.

He wrote to Sir Brian Leveson while in prison and the judge took him up on the offer, writing to his fellow judges, ‘In the course of my career, I have visited many prisons but in my 15 years on the bench … I have received precisely one invitation to visit a prison from someone on whom I passed sentence.’

Crilly took to Facebook in the aftermath saying: ‘Why!? This guy, Jack Merrit, the best guy I ever met. Jack actually tried helping this guy! To educate him. As he educated me’

Jack Merritt (pictured centre) was one of the victims of the London Bridge terror attack. His father David (left) has condemned politicisation of the attack 

Cambridge graduates Saskia Jones, 23, (left) and Mr Merritt, 25, (right) were fatally stabbed during a prisoner rehabilitation event last Friday

Sir Brian’s article, shared by The Justice Gap, continued: ‘I sentenced him nearly 10 years ago after he was convicted by a jury for his part in a joint enterprise single-punch murder of an elderly home owner during the course of a robbery in which he did not personally use the fatal (or any) force.

‘At the time he was addicted to heroin. Perhaps understandably it has taken many years to come to terms with his guilt but Grendon has helped him do just that. Today, John seems to fully acknowledge responsibility for the death of another human being; he is clear of drugs and appears to be headed in the right direction.’

The London Bridge killer Usman Khan was a convicted terrorist who had been a member of an al Qaida-inspired group that plotted to blow up the London Stock Exchange.

The 28-year-old killed the two Cambridge graduates and injured three other people in his knife rampage before being shot dead, wearing a mock suicide vest, last Friday.

He had been living in Stafford after he was released from prison on licence in December 2018.

Khan was charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and other terrorism offences in late December 2010, along with eight others.

On February 1 2012, the nine pleaded guilty to various terrorist offences, with four admitting an al Qaida-inspired plot to detonate a bomb at the London Stock Exchange.

Woolwich Crown Court heard a hand-written target list found on a desk at one of the plotters’ homes also included the names and addresses of the Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral in London, then London mayor Boris Johnson, two rabbis, and the American Embassy in London.

Khan and two others, all from Stoke-on-Trent, admitted to a charge of engaging in conduct for the preparation of terrorism between November 1 and December 21 2010 – namely travelling to and attending operational meetings, fundraising for terrorist training, preparing to travel abroad and assisting others in travelling abroad.

Khan killed two and injured three others before he was shot dead by police on Friday. He had been wearing a mock suicide vest.

Usman Khan holding a placard while joining other Islamic extremists on the streets of Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in January 2010

The group was also linked to radical preacher Anjem Choudary by a mobile phone seized from an address of one of the plotters, which contained material relating to protests by the banned Al-Muhajiroun group he founded.

Passing sentence on February 9 2012, the judge, Mr Justice Wilkie, said this was a ‘serious, long-term venture in terrorism’ that could also have resulted in atrocities in Britain.

He said: ‘It was envisaged by them all that ultimately they and the other recruits may return to the UK as trained and experienced terrorists available to perform terrorist attacks in this country, on one possibility contemplated in the context of the return of British troops from Afghanistan.’

The trio appealed against their sentences and on April 16 2013 had their indeterminate sentences quashed by the Court of Appeal, which instead imposed determinate custodial sentences.

The Court of Appeal judgment said: ‘The groups were clearly considering a range of possibilities including fundraising for the establishment of a military training madrassa in Pakistan, where they would undertake training themselves and recruit others to do likewise, sending letter bombs through the post, attacking public houses used by British racist groups, attacking a high-profile target with an explosive device and a Mumbai-style attack.’

Khan was charged with conspiracy to cause explosions and other terrorism offences in late December 2010, along with eight others 

Usman Khan, 28, had complained to medics about being bullied and had been called Beyonce Boy in prison

Allowing their sentence appeals, Lord Justice Leveson, sitting with Mr Justice Mitting and Mr Justice Sweeney, sentenced Shahjahan to 17 years and eight months and Khan and Hussain to 16 years, along with five-year extended licence periods.

Khan denied being a terrorist in a 2008 interview with BBC News after his address was raided by anti-terror police.

He told the reporter: ‘I’ve been born and bred in England, in Stoke-on-Trent, in Cobridge, and all the community knows me and they will know, if you ask them, they will know like these labels what they’re putting on us, like terrorist, this, that, they will know.

‘I ain’t no terrorist.’

Another video of Khan, obtained by Sky News, sees the attacker talk of his mistrust of the authorities in 2010.

‘Now I know I can never ever trust them, never ever,’ he said.

‘I didn’t trust them anyway but now, they’ve showed their hatred, they’ve showed how much they can hate you.’

Why was Usman Khan freed from jail? How terrorist was released after serving eight years for plotting to blow up the Stock Exchange 

When was Khan jailed and for how long?

Khan was given an open-ended jail term – known as an ‘imprisonment for public protection’, or IPP – in January 2012 at Woolwich Crown Court after pleading guilty to one count of ‘engaging in conduct in preparation for acts of terrorism’. The sentencing judge Mr Justice Wilkie specified a minimum custodial term of eight years. But to secure his freedom, Khan would have to convince the Parole Board that he no longer posed a risk.

What happened then?

In an appeal in March 2013, Khan’s lawyers won their case – and he was given a term with a definitive end point. The need for Khan’s release to be approved by the Parole Board was also dropped. Appeal judges imposed an extended sentence of 21 years which comprised a custodial element of 16 years and a five-year ‘extension period’. The 16-year custodial element meant he was eligible for release at the halfway point – eight years.

Why is only half of a sentence served?

It has been a convention since the 1960s that half of a term is served in prisons. The rest of a sentence is served ‘on licence’, when an offender can be quickly sent back to jail if they fail to behave.

When was Khan finally freed?

The Parole Board was quick to point out after Friday’s attack that Khan’s release was not referred to them – he was automatically released at the halfway point. He remained on ‘extended licence’ and had to report to police and probation officers, wear a GPS electronic tag and fulfil other requirements.

How did laws passed by a former Labour government affect the Court of Appeal’s options?

PM Boris Johnson has said Khan had to be ‘automatically released half-way through’ because of changes Labour made in 2008 to Extended Sentences for Public Protection or EPPs. This is correct.

Until 2008, anyone on an EPP had to have their release approved by the Parole Board. If they were refused, the board could keep them in jail up to the end of their custodial period, which in Khan’s case was 16 years.

But in mid-2008, Labour made release automatic halfway through.However, the Court of Appeal could potentially have upheld the original IPP sentence.

How can ministers toughen up the sentencing of terrorists?

Khan’s atrocity has reignited debate over whether there is now a case to remove entitlement to early release for convicted terrorists.

PM Boris Johnson has already said they should be made to serve ‘every day’ of their terms. Some important steps have already been taken.

Extended Determinate Sentences (EDS), brought in in 2012, only allow convicted terrorists to apply for parole two-thirds through their sentence, with no automatic entitlement for release.

The Counter Terrorism and Border Security Act, which won Royal Assent in February, toughens jail terms for a range of offences and – crucially –makes it easier to keep terror suspects behind bars beyond the halfway point. It extended two types of sentence – the EDS and Sentences for Offenders of Particular Concern (SOPC) – to a number of middle-ranking terror offences.

A clearer structure could set out underlining principles such as whether early release is allowed, and whether the Parole Board or ministers should approve any release before it takes place rather than it taking place automatically.

A clearer structure would help underline how the justice system should deal with terrorists.

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