The devastated girlfriend of London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt wept today at an emotional vigil in memory of her late boyfriend.
Jack Merritt, 25, and fellow Cambridge University graduate Saskia Jones, 23, were both stabbed by Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event they were working at near London Bridge on Friday.
Mr Merritt’s girlfriend Leanne O’Brien cried and held a cuddly toy today as she was supported by family and friends at an event in Cambridge to remember her boyfriend and his colleague Miss Jones.
Miss O’Brien was at the front of a crowd of mourners this morning along with Mr Merritt’s mother Anne, who held her hand, Mr Merritt’s father David, and Miss O’Brien’s mother Mac and father Jeff.
The Cambridge vigil took place as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn stood side-by-side to pay their respects at a separate event at Guildhall Yard in London, observing a minute’s silence alongside members of the public.
It came as MPs became further embroiled in an intensifying political row over which party was to blame for the early release of the attacker, who was allowed out halfway through a 16-year jail term for terrorism.
Mr Johnson has been criticised by Mr Merritt’s father for ‘politicising’ the attack and promising tougher sentencing rules to prevent the early release of terrorists.
But the Prime Minister today denied exploiting the terror attack for political purposes, saying: ‘Of course I feel as everybody does huge amount of sympathy for the loss of Jack Merritt’s family and all the relatives of Jack and Saskia, but be in no doubt I have campaigned against early release and short sentences for many years. It was in my manifesto in 2012… We have too many people released automatically on our streets.’
Meanwhile, shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott tweeted a quote from, and a link to, a column published by The Guardian, entitled ‘locking up extremists isn’t working in our cash-strapped prisons’.
Leanne O’Brien (front centre), the girlfriend of Jack Merritt, weeps and holds a cuddly toy during a vigil in Cambridge today. Pictured (front row, from left): Mr Merritt’s mother Anne, Miss O’Brien’s mother Mac, Miss O’Brien, Mr Merritt’s father David and Miss O’Brien’s father Jeff
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the vigil in London today. Victim Jack Merritt’s father has called on politicians to stop politicising the terror attack, but the row continued today
Leanne O’Brien (centre), the girlfriend of London Bridge terror attack victim Jack Merritt, cries at the vigil in Cambridge today
Miss O’Brien (centre) is supported by family as she arrives at the public memorial event in Cambridge this morning
Miss O’Brien (left) is comforted by relatives outside the Guildhall in Cambridge today, where mourners gathered (right)
Members of the public attend a vigil in Cambridge today to honour the victims of the London Bridge terror attack on Friday
In London, hundreds attended the vigil at the Guildhall at the centre of the City. A minute’s silence was held at 11am
The Mayor of Cambridge, Councillor Gerri Bird, led the minute’s silence at 11am, which ended with a round of applause. Afterwards Mr Merritt’s father, David, was seen chatting to the MP for Cambridge, Daniel Zeichner.
Mr Zeichner said in a statement: ‘This is a real tragedy for our city. Two young people from the University of Cambridge have died needlessly in horrific circumstances. It is impossible to understand this senseless violence.
‘All our thoughts are with the families of those who have lost their lives and have been injured, and our thanks go to the emergency services and those who intervened at considerable risk to themselves.
Mr Merritt’s father David, an estates manager at a sixth form college and Labour activist, said last night: ‘Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda. Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance.’
David Merritt, who describes himself on Twitter as a ‘pragmatic left-leaning atheist’, has been repeatedly retweeting messages urging politicians against knee-jerk reactions to the London Bridge attack.
Cambridge MP Mr Zeichner has told the Cambridge Independent: ‘This is hugely tragic for Cambridge. A young life has been taken needlessly and so much potential has been wasted. Jack’s dad is a Labour Party member so the whole Labour family feel this particularly hard.’
In London today, Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn were joined by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who called for people to come together after the killings and work for a future ‘not defined by hatred but defined by hope, unity and love’.
After a minute’s silence at 11am, he said: ‘We come together this morning as Londoners to remember, to honour and to mourn the innocent lives lost as a result of this horrific terrorist attack on Friday.’
Mr Khan, Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn take part in the vigil at the Guildhall in London today to pay tribute to the victims
Mr Johnson pauses for reflection during the vigil in London today for the victims of the terror attack last Friday
Mr Johnson and Mr Corbyn take part in the vigil in London today to honour the victims of the London Bridge terror attack
The vigil for the victims, held at the Guildhall in London this morning, was taken by the Bishop of London Sarah Mullally
Who is to blame for freeing Usman Khan? Labour law automatically let London Bridge attacker free, Lord Leveson revised his sentence and Tories presided over his release
MPs are today embroiled in an intensifying political row over which party is to blame for the early release of the London Bridge terror attacker.
Usman Khan (right), 28, murdered two young students when he went on a knife rampage in London Bridge on Friday, before he was shot dead by police.
The convicted terrorist had been free to walk the streets wearing an electronic monitoring tag after being released halfway through his 16-year sentence.
Boris Johnson accused Labour of weakening the law on early release during an interview yesterday, with the Tories saying Jeremy Corbyn – who has boasted of voting against all counter-terror legislation since 1983 – is ‘soft on terrorists’.
But questions are now being asked as to why there were no provisions implemented by the Tories after removing the indeterminate sentences for public protection which would have ensured the Parole Board intervened before Khan’s automatic release.
Justice Secretary Robert Buckland spoke to today’s Good Morning Britain and insisted Mr Corbyn had a record of ‘making excuses’ for extremists.
Khan had been a guest at a prisoner rehabilitation conference in Fishmongers’ Hall in London when he carried out his sickening rampage.
He had been arrested in 2010 for terrorism offences for his part in an al Qaeda-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and kill Boris Johnson.
In 2012, Khan, along with two co-conspirators, received an indeterminate sentence for public protection with a minimum of eight years behind bars – meaning he could be kept indefinitely if he continued to pose a risk to the public.
In April 2013, Khan appealed against his indeterminate sentence and it was quashed by Lord Justice Leveson at the Court of Appeal.
He was given a determinate 16-year jail term, meaning he would be automatically released after eight years, half of his sentence.
Leveson said at the time when reversing the original indeterminate sentence that the Parole Board was best placed to decide when he would be safe to be released from jail.
But the Parole Board released a statement on Saturday saying they played no part at all in Khan’s release because he was freed automatically, suggesting a failure at some point in the Justice System, and ultimately from the Government, to review Khan’s case.
Khan was automatically set free thanks to the Criminal Justice Act – introduced by Labour in 2005 – which releases prisoners halfway through their term, with the rest of their sentence under licence.
Former Tory minister David Gauke was Justice Secretary while Sajid Javid was become Home Secretary, at the time of Khan’s release in December 2018.
Sentences of Imprisonment for Public Protection (IPPs) were introduced in 2005 and given to violent or sexual offenders.
The policy was introduced by Labour’s David Blunkett and was targeted at criminals who did not warrant a life sentence but posed a serious risk to the public.
But these types of sentences were abolished in 2012 under David Cameron’s Conservative government in a policy introduced by then Justice Secretary Ken Clarke – although existing prisoners serving indeterminate sentences would continue to do so.
Khan’s co-conspirators Nazam Hussain and Mohammed Shahjahan also appealed and the Court of Appeals dropped their indeterminate sentences in 2013.
But just 24 hours after Khan’s attack on Friday, Nazam Hussain was dramatically held for allegedly plotting a fresh atrocity. The 34-year-old was detained just hours after Boris Johnson announced a top-level review into the licence conditions of 74 convicted terrorists who are now out of jail.
Hussain was originally jailed in 2012 as part of the terror cell which was plotting to attack the London Stock Exchange and other high-profile targets in the City of London.
His arrest means new offences were allegedly discovered within hours of the review being demanded – raising serious questions about how convicted terrorists are supervised after being freed from jail.
Labour under Tony Blair dictated that any prisoners serving a determinate sentence would serve half of their sentence in custody before being released on licence, meaning Khan was able to walk free in December last year.
Three of the other would-be terrorists jailed alongside Khan are now free, while two remain in prison.
He added: ‘The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but by focusing on the values that bind us.’
The mayor thanked the public and members of the emergency services who ‘ran towards danger, risking their lives to help others they didn’t even know’.
Mr Khan called on Londoners to ‘draw inspiration from the lives of Jack and Saskia who, from a very early age, chose to dedicate themselves to helping others’.
He added: ‘We come together in condolence but also in a spirit of defiance to say that London will never be cowed or intimidated by terrorism.’
The ceremony was led by Bishop of London Sarah Mullally, and Mustafa Fields, director of multi-faith organisation Faith Forums for London, also spoke.
Mr Fields offered prayers for the victims and emergency services and ‘all the Muslims grieving at the attacks in the name of their faith’. After the vigil, those present entered the Guildhall to sign a book of condolences to the victims.
Also present were Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Liberal Democrat candidate Chuka Umunna.
Around London Bridge Underground station this morning, several whiteboards had been placed with messages of support, including: ‘Together we stand. An attack on any one of us is an attack on us all. Haters are not welcome. We are London and we won’t fall.’
The vigils took place as West Midlands Police said a 34-year-old man arrested in Stoke-on-Trent on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts had been recalled to prison due to a breach of his licence conditions.
He has been named in reports as Nazam Hussain, who was jailed with Usman in 2012 for terrorism offences, and like Usman had been released early on licence after successfully appealing against his original indeterminate sentence.
Officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit held him after a search of his home on Saturday. The force has said there is no information to suggest he was involved in Khan’s attack at London Bridge.
Khan, 28, also from Stoke, was on licence and wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he launched the attack, which injured three others, after he was invited to the prisoner rehabilitation conference on Friday afternoon.
The event was organised held by Learning Together, a programme associated with Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology.
The attack has prompted the Ministry of Justice to review the licence conditions of every convicted terrorist released from prison, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was ‘probably about 74’ people.
Mr Johnson has vowed to take steps to ensure people are not released early when they commit serious offences.
But the family of Mr Merritt, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, asked for his death to not to be used to justify introducing ‘even more draconian sentences’ on offenders in a heartfelt tribute released on Sunday.
They said: ‘He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly.
‘Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.
‘We know Jack would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary.’
And in a tweet on Sunday evening, Mr Merritt’s father David said: ‘Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda.
‘Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance.’
Mr Merritt’s girlfriend, veterinary science student Miss O’Brien, learned of her boyfriend’s murder just weeks after they had enjoyed a romantic trip to Seville, Spain, to celebrate his 25th birthday.
Miss Jones, a volunteer with Learning Together from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, was described as having a ‘great passion’ for providing support to victims of crime by her family.
In a statement, they said: ‘She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be.
‘Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate recruitment programme, wishing to specialise in victim support.’
Khan, who was living in Stafford, was given permission to travel into the heart of London by police and the Probation Service.
Convicted of terror offences in February 2012, he was released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through his 16-year prison sentence.
He launched the fatal attack at the Learning Together event just before 2pm on Friday.
Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police.
One of the three people injured in the attack has been allowed to return home while the other two remain in a stable condition in hospital. No-one else is being sought over the attack.
Members of the public attend a vigil for victims Mr Merritt and Miss Jones at the Guildhall in London this morning
Members of the public hold flowers during a vigil at the Guildhall in London to pay tribute to the victims of the terror attack
Friends of the victims wept and brought flowers to the scene in London as they struggled to take in what unfolded last Friday
Mr Merritt, pictured with girlfriend Leanne O’Brien, studied law in Manchester before doing an postgraduate at Cambridge
Jack Merritt (left) and Saskia Jones (right) were killed in Friday’s terror attack at London Bridge
A floral tribute left at the scene of the London Bridge terror attack today says: ‘I love you forever, I am so proud of you’
Police arrest a SECOND convicted terrorist – hours after Boris Johnson ordered crackdown on 74 freed jihadists in wake of London Bridge attack
Police have arrested a second convicted terrorist just hours after Boris Johnson ordered a crackdown on 74 jihadists who have been released early from prison.
A 23-year-old man was detained in north London yesterday on suspicion of breaching notification conditions under the Counter Terrorism Act.
Sunday’s arrest comes after an Islamist jailed in 2012 alongside London Bridge attacker Usman Khan was dramatically held for allegedly plotting a fresh atrocity.
Metropolitan Police told MailOnline it was not able to confirm whether or not the man arrested on Sunday was among the 74 convicted jihadists under review.
Sunday’s arrest comes after the death of London Bridge killer Usman Khan (left) and the arrest of his former conspirator Nazam Hussain (right)
Khan, 28, was shot dead by armed police after killing two people during a terror attack on London Bridge on Friday
But the force confirmed the arrest ‘was not linked in any way to the London Bridge terror attack’ and that the inquiry was under way before Friday’s atrocity.
Under the Counter Terrorism Act, those convicted of certain offences must agree to notify the police of any change in details or plans to travel abroad.
Hussain was originally jailed in 2012 as part of a terror cell which plotted to attack the London Stock Exchange and other high-profile targets in the City of London.
His arrest means new offences were allegedly discovered within hours of the review being demanded – raising serious questions about how convicted terrorists are supervised after being freed from jail.
The police move came two days after Khan, 28, murdered two people at a prisoner rehabilitation conference less than a year after being released from prison.
His second victim was yesterday named as former Cambridge University student Saskia Jones, 23, who had recently applied to join the police.
On Sunday evening, police were seen doing a last minute search by torchlight of London Bridge before reopening it.
She had been volunteering at the conference at Fishmongers’ Hall, near London Bridge, when Khan began his rampage on Friday afternoon
Khan’s second victim was yesterday named as former Cambridge University student Saskia Jones (left and right), 23, who had recently applied to join the police
Miss Jones’ family paid tribute to her ‘funny, kind, positive influence’ and said she was ‘generous to the point of always wanting to see the best in all people’.
Specialist officers from the West Midlands Counter-Terrorism Unit arrested Hussain in Stoke-on-Trent yesterday.
Sources confirmed he was being held ‘on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts’.
He is believed to have been freed from jail less than a year ago, at roughly the same time as Khan. In other developments it emerged that:
- Khan – who schoolfriends said used to carry a photo of Osama bin Laden – was poised to begin a course at Cambridge University;
He’ll end up in hell, says his Imam
The Imam of the mosque where London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan worshipped as a child yesterday condemned the attack.
Abdul Qadir Hashmi said his actions ‘cannot be justified under any circumstances’ and according to his religion the killer would ‘end up in hell’.
Khan grew up in the Cobridge area of Stoke-on-Trent and attended the Ghausia Mosque, before he left home in his late teens.
Imam Hashmi said the community’s thoughts were with the victims. He said: ‘My prayers are with the victims and relatives of those who were killed. Our thoughts and sympathies are with the victims of this terrible act.
‘As Imam, I condemn any killing of innocent human beings. The religion I practice day in day out has no connection with those who choose to kill innocent people. The actions of this young man are wrong and cannot be justified under any circumstances. The Koran is clear, anyone who kills anyone else unjustly will end up in hell, no two ways about it.’
Police continued to search the home where Khan’s parents live yesterday and the Imam also said his thoughts were with the killer’s family. ‘The parents are as helpless as anyone else because they had no control over their child’s actions,’ he said.
- The authorities forced him to be accompanied by an escort on a previous trip to London in March but this time he was allowed to travel to the capital alone by train;
- The killer had been seen driving a taxi in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent;
- Britain’s most notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary claimed Khan and Hussain were ‘entirely innocent’ when they were jailed for the Stock Exchange plot in 2012.
Mr Johnson yesterday pledged to toughen anti-terror laws and said it was ‘repulsive’ that someone as dangerous as Khan had served only eight years behind bars after plotting to carry out acts of terrorism.
The Prime Minister told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: ‘I think it is ridiculous, I think it is repulsive, that individuals as dangerous as this man should be allowed out after serving only eight years and that’s why we are going to change the law.’
He blamed Labour for changing to the law in 2008 so offenders serving Khan’s type of jail term were automatically released without a parole hearing after serving half of it.
‘I’m sure people can imagine what we’re doing to ensure that 74 other individuals who’ve been let out early on the basis of this Labour change in legislation, they are being properly invigilated to make sure there is no threat,’ the Prime Minister said.
Ministry of Justice officials are understood to be going through emails and phone records to ensure that licensing conditions are being met, as reported by The Telegraph.
Mr Corbyn argued that cuts to public services had contributed to the attack on Friday.
Khan was on licence and wearing a GPS monitoring tag when he attended the conference on prisoner rehabilitation hosted by a Cambridge University scheme called Learning Together at Fishmongers’ Hall.
The other person killed was Jack Merritt, 25, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, who worked in the university’s criminology department.
His grieving family said he was a ‘beautiful, talented boy’ who died ‘doing what he loved’. Floral tributes were placed at the scene in memory of Mr Merritt yesterday, including a sign which read: ‘I love you forever. I am so so proud of you.’
Her fellow Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt (pictured) was a coordinator at the event on Friday
Both the victims were killed inside the building before Khan was bundled outside where he was overpowered by members of the public and then shot dead by police.
Two other victims remain in a stable condition in hospital. A third has been allowed home.
Khan had applied for a ‘continuing education’ course at Cambridge University and was due to begin studying there within weeks.
Security services are analysing all the electronic devices seized from his address in Stafford to work out how long he had been planning the attack and whether anyone else was involved.
One Whitehall source said: ‘It is still quite a puzzle as to how someone who appeared to be a reformed character decided to do this.’
Khan was among the 3,000 terrorists being monitored by the security services, but he was not under round-the-clock surveillance, it is understood.
To have monitored him any more closely would have taken resources away from someone known to be planning an attack, sources said.
Khan and Hussain are both thought have been disciples of hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
They had both planned to travel to Pakistan in January 2011, but were arrested shortly before leaving.
Jail time is up – so are these fanatics back on the streets?
Left to right: Mohibur Rahman, 35 Jailed for five years in 2012. Behind bars again, 20-year sentence. Gurukanth Desai, 37 Prepared for acts of terrorism. Jailed for 12 years in February 2012. Now free. Abdul Miah, 33 Prepared for acts of terrorism. Jailed for over 16 years in 2012. Now free. Usman khan, 28 London bridge attacker. Mohammad Chowdhury, 29 Key to 2012 plot. Jailed for 14 years, now back in prison. Mohammed Shahjahan, 34 Sentenced to 17 years ten months in 2013. Now free
Omar Latif, 35, jailed for assisting in preparation for terrorism. Latiff, pictured on Sunday, sentenced to ten years in 2012. Now free
Left: Mohammed Bhatti: Conspiracy to cause explosion Jailed for 20 years in 2007. Right: Junade Feroze Conspiracy to cause explosion Jailed for 22 years in 2007
Left: Mohammed Zia Ul Haq. Conspiracy to cause explosion Jailed for 18 years in 2007. Right: Yunes Tsouli. Inciting murder Jailed for 16 years in 2007
Left: Habib Ahmed. Acts preparatory to terror Jailed for 10 years in 2008. Right: Rangzieb ahmed. Directing terror in 2008 Jailed minimum 10 years
Left: Munir Farooqi. Soliciting murder in 2011 Jailed minimum 9 years. Right: Jamshed Javeed. Acts preparatory to terrorism Jailed for 6 years in 2015
Left: Kazi Islam. Preparing for terrorism Jailed for 8 years in 2015. Right: Zakariya ashiq. Preparing for terrorism Jailed for 6 years in 2015
Left: Stephen Gray. Preparing for terrorism Jailed for 5 years in 2016. Right: Trevor Mulindwa. Preparing for terrorism Jailed for 6 years in 2015
Left: Imran Mahmood. Preparing acts of terrorism Jailed for over 9 years in 2013. Right: Anjem Choudary. Inviting support of a proscribed organisation
Left: Omar Abdur Rehman. Conspiracy to cause explosion Jailed for 15 years in 2007. Right: Qaisar Shaffi. Conspiracy to murder Jailed for 15 years in 2007
The London Bridge killer and his ‘personal friend’ Anjem Choudary: Terrorist Usman Khan is pictured with notorious hate preacher Anjem Choudary at Shariah Law conference in 2009
A picture has emerged of London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan with his ‘personal friend’ hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
The image shows Khan, who was shot dead after fatally stabbing two people on Friday, with Choudary at a conference in Stoke-on-Trent in March 2009.
Khan, 28, used the alias Abu Saif when he spoke alongside Choudary at the event on Sharia Law organised by a group called Ahl Sunnah Wal Jumah.
It comes after pictures were revealed of him laughing in a brochure for the rehabilitation group that he was part of and later turned on at Fishmongers’ Hall.
He was described as a success story after working with Learning Together, a Cambridge University programme that assisted him while in prison and after his release.
But he appears to have used the scheme to be able to carry out the terror attack that killed graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23.
An image shows Usman Khan (right), who was shot dead after fatally stabbing two people on Friday, with Anjem Choudary (centre) at a conference in Stoke-on-Trent in March 2009
Khan was a familiar sight on the streets of Stoke, taking part in frequent demonstrations from 2008 to 2010 which saw him and others distribute leaflets from a stall and wave flags
Usman Khan addresses the public from a weekly rally held by Islamic extremists in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent in February 2010
Khan, pictured using a laptop, was signed up to the Cambridge University-run programme Learning Together
Khan even wrote organisers a thank-you note after they provided him with a computer he could use without breaching his licence, as reported by The Daily Telegraph.
In his perverse poem, Khan claimed: ‘I write so my words become a soothing light, I write so I can enter the coldest of hearts, I write so I can speak to those locked off from the world engulfed in the blinding absence of sight, I write so I can express what I feel is right.’
Meanwhile, his thank-you letter to staff claimed that the Learning Together programme had a ‘special place in [his] heart’.
It emerged yesterday that he used to walk around school with a picture of Osama Bin Laden attached to the front of an exercise book.
Khan was also spotted laughing at videos of the 9/11 terror attacks in New York with other religious fanatics in a cafe when he was just 14.
In the same year, he started preaching Islamic extremism on the streets of Stoke on behalf of Anjem Choudary’s banned terror group al-Muhajiroun.
Khan was photographed waving an Al Qaeda flag as he ranted into a megaphone.
The British-born son of Pakistani immigrants from the Kashmir region, he had three elder siblings – two brothers and a sister.
Usman Khan pictured brandishing an Al Qaeda flag as he shouts through a megaphone. The London Bridge terrorist was also found to have had a picture of Osama Bin Laden on the front of his schoolbag
Abu Abdullah, Abu Bosher and Abu Saif (aka Usman Khan, right), give a press conference on July 4, 2008, the day after their homes in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, were raided by police
Despite the hard-working ethos of his taxi-driving father Taj Kahn and his mother Parveen Begum, he left Haywood High School in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, with few qualifications.
His weekly distribution of disturbing literature resulted in his family’s modest three-bedroom terrace home in the Cobridge area of Stoke being raided by anti-terror police when he was just 17.
Khan’s poem to rehabilitation team
I write so my words become a soothing light
I write so I can enter the coldest of hearts
I write so I can speak to those locked off
From the world engulfed in the blinding absence of sight
I write so I can express what I feel is right
Shortly after the raid, an indignant Khan said: ‘I’ve been born and bred in England, in Stoke-on-Trent, in Cobridge, and all the community knows me and they will know… I ain’t no terrorist.’
The teenager was investigated for promoting extremist views and radicalising vulnerable people.
But after a 20-month probe, the Crown Prosecution Service told officers they were unlikely to get a conviction with the evidence they had. Instead of acting as a warning, the lack of criminal charges against Khan simply emboldened him.
He vowed: ‘We are going to carry on until the last breath, because we believe this is the truth.’
The extremist was true to his word. He spoke at a conference about why Britain should adopt Sharia law and began a campaign to stage a highly inflammatory march through the town of Wootton Bassett in Wiltshire, where British soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan were honoured.
Although the protest never took place, his membership of Islam4UK – another of Choudary’s banned extremist groups – prompted the security services to launch a second covert surveillance operation on him in 2010.
Bugs installed by MI5 in Khan’s home recorded him discussing how to make a pipe bomb after seeing a ‘recipe’ in an Al Qaeda magazine. He also called non-Muslims ‘dogs’, discussed buying weapons and spoke about attacking pubs and clubs in the Stoke area by leaving explosives in the lavatories.
Khan and two others, who called themselves the ‘Stoke Three’, contacted radicals in London and Cardiff on Paltalk, an internet messaging service.
The men, dubbed the ‘nine lions’, met at a Victorian boating lake in Wales to discuss how to train home-grown terrorists, embark on letter-bomb campaigns, blow up pubs and use a pipe bomb to kill and maim people at the London Stock Exchange.
Khan and others from his hometown became obsessed with the idea of setting up a terrorist training facility under the guise of creating a school on land owned by his family in Kashmir.
While the rest of the cell wanted to begin attacks immediately, the authorities were much more concerned about the sophistication displayed by the ‘Stoke Three’.
During the subsequent trial, judge Mr Justice Wilkie found they were pursuing a ‘long-term and sustained path [to become] more serious and effective terrorists’.
After his arrest, Khan was the first to plead guilty to planning a terror camp, knowing he would get a reduction in sentence.
In 2012, he was imprisoned for public protection for 16 years but could only be considered for release if a parole board was convinced he posed no threat.
London Bridge terrorist Khan pictured handing out extreme Islamic leaflets