Trapped by a whale tusk and fire extinguisher

Ordinary heroes: A Polish chef, a convicted murderer and a kitchen porter named Mohammed. © Ketts News

Is anyone to blame? Usman Khan killed two brilliant, young people who believed in helping criminals, then was cornered by members of the public — before the political accusations started.

Saskia Jones was a 23-year-old Cambridge graduate who was training to specialise in victim support. Jack Merritt was a 25-year-old Cambridge graduate passionate about prison reform and rehabilitation.

On Friday, both were stabbed to death by a convicted terrorist who had been released early from jail.

The killer, 28-year-old Usman Khan from Stoke, had only served half his 16-year sentence. After wounding three others in the horrendous attack in central London’s grand Fishmonger’s Hall, he was chased and captured on London Bridge by members of the public.

One of them wielded the £30,000 ivory tusk of a narwhal, ripped from a display in the hall. Another aimed the jet from a fire extinguisher in his face. Within five minutes Khan, wearing a fake suicide vest, had been shot dead by police.

The tragedy of Friday’s London Bridge attack has left two innocent victims dead and three wounded. Several members of the public behaved with huge courage. The police and emergency services were exemplary. The politicians bicker and argue. One young terrorist was shot dead.

But is anyone really to blame?

New blitz

Of course, they are, say many commentators. This was a catastrophic failure of the criminal justice system. Proof of that is the desperate scramble to fix things. Johnson has admitted that the 74 convicted terrorists back on the streets are now being closely monitored. The Government has to take responsibility for these things.

That is far too simplistic, say others. Mistakes were made by different ministers in different governments over several decades. Johnson and his team were nothing to do with it. Blaming people is a waste of time. The key question is: who is capable of sorting out the mess?

You Decide

  1. Which is more effective? Simply punishing people for doing wrong, or trying to teach them how to be better?


  1. Think of a time when you were punished for doing something bad. Form into pairs and discuss whether that punishment worked.

Some People Say...

“Terror attacks always reveal the very best of humanity, even when they expose the very worst.”

Stig Abell, author of How Britain Really Works

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
Usman Khan took part in deradicalisation programmes (teaching those with extreme and violent religious or political ideas to become more moderate and nonviolent) and had not broken any rules since being released a year ago. He was supposed to be wearing an electronic tag at the time of the attack.
What do we not know?
If Khan was working with anyone else, or whether the attack was part of any wider plot. We do not know if he was being monitored by MI5, or how much personal contact he had with specialised officials during his time in prison.

Word Watch

Prison reform
The attempt to improve conditions inside prisons, establish a much more effective system of punishment, or alternatives to imprisonment.
Re-educating and retraining those who commit crime. The goal is to re-integrate offenders back into society through psychological help, education and work training.
Held and used (a weapon or tool).
A marine mammal that looks like a seal with a unicorn horn. It is often depicted in mythology.
An excellent example of something.
Involving or causing great damage or suffering.
Criminal justice system
The Criminal Justice System delivers justice for all, by convicting and punishing the guilty and helping them to stop offending, while protecting the innocent.

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