Lawyers for the victims of the Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist Usman Khan repeatedly accused his family at an inquest in central London of ignoring his “nasty” nature and failing to challenge his extremism.
Khan’s older brother, who cannot be named, was reduced to tears by the accusations, but insisted the family did all it could and was unaware of his violent record in prison.
The witness also made a direct apology to the families of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were stabbed to death by Khan at a prisoner education event at the hall in central London in November 2019.
Opening his evidence at the Guildhall in the City of London, Khan’s brother said: “First all, sincere condolences to Jack and Saskia’s family. We are truly, truly sad of the events that happened.”
At the end of 90 minutes on the witness stand, the sibling was sobbing as counsel for the families of Merritt and Jones accused the Khans of ignoring warning signs in the run-up to the attack.
Nick Armstrong, representing the Merritts, said: “He (Khan) was a nasty, violent, self-regarding piece of work. All the signs were there, and you looked away, didn’t you?”
The witness looked down and gave an inaudible reply.
Earlier, he insisted his brother had “kept everything to himself” and the family was unaware of his extremism. “We didn’t turn a blind eye, we tried to do as best as we could,” the inquest heard.
Henry Pitchers, representing Jones’s family, challenged this by referring to 2008 images of Khan handing out extremist literature, holding a jihadi flag and appearing at press conference with the hate preacher Anjem Choudary.
Pitchers said: “I just want to suggest to you that this isn’t really keeping everything to himself.”
The witness said: “We only found out about these guys after he got arrested.”
When Khan later admitted charges linked to a terrorist plot to bomb the London Stock Exchange, the news was “a total shock” to his family, the inquest heard.
After his release from prison in 2018, the witness said Khan would regularly visit the family home but would routinely dismiss any queries from them about his past.
The brother said: “He said, ‘I was young, I was silly, I got into stupid things.’”
Asked whether Khan’s relatives should have pressed him further on what he was up to, the brother said: “We did our best. We mainly relied on the people who were monitoring him because he had a tag on.
“If we noticed anything suspicious, we would have been the first ones to alert.”
The witness said he saw Khan the Sunday before the Fishmongers’ Hall attack and said he appeared “absolutely normal”.
Describing the moment the family found out that Khan had staged a terrorist attack and had been shot by police, he said: “I didn’t want to tell my mum in case she had a heart attack.
“I was stressed. I was shocked … It wasn’t registering … Then it hit me. I thought – ‘whoa, no way’.”
The inquest continues.