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London Bridge terror attack victim named as search of killer Usman Khan's 'flat' continues

By Megan Archer | Stafford | Crime | Published: | Last Updated:

Police and forensic teams have been searching the flat in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford, as part of the terror attack investigation.

The property in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford, which has been central to the police investigation. Picture: Steve Leath/Express & Star

One of the people stabbed to death in the London terror attack has been named - as police conduct a search of a flat linked to terrorist Usman Khan.

University of Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt was killed when Khan launched the attack at a Cambridge University conference on prisoner rehabilitation in the captial.

Mr Merritt was a course co-ordinator for University of Cambridge-associated Learning Together, who was described by his father on Twitter as a "beautiful spirit".

The area around London Bridge in central London cordoned off this morning

A woman who died in the attack has yet to be named by police.

Three other people were injured.

Usman Khan

Mr Merritt was at the Learning Together event, a prisoners' rehabilitation programme that was hosting a conference at Fishmongers' Hall at the north end of London Bridge.

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Khan, who was originally from Stoke, was among the students and offenders at the event.

Police's focus on Stafford flat

London attacker Usman Khan had been part of a Staffordshire-based terrorist cell.

Khan was one of three men jailed seven years ago for their parts in plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.

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He was released on licence in December 2018 halfway through a 16-year prison sentence.

Police setting up barriers to maintain the integrity of the site for gathering evidence at a three-storey block of flats in Woverhampton Road, Stafford, where a property is being searched by police following yesterday's stabbing attacks in London. Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire.

The 28-year-old armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest killed Mr Merritt and a woman and injured three other people before he was tackled by members of the public.

He was shot dead by police on London Bridge.

Metropolitan Police Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said he had been living in the Staffordshire area and that police were "not actively seeking anyone else" over the attack.

Police have yet to confirm more details on why the flat in Stafford is being searched, but it was thought to be where Khan lived recently.

Police officers going into a three-storey block of flats in Woverhampton Road, Stafford. Credit: Matt Cooper/PA Wire

Uniformed officers were standing guard outside a three-storey block of flats in Wolverhampton Road this evening after searches continued throughout Saturday.

It is understood Khan had been living at the flat for around six months.

A police photographer and search teams entered one of two doors at the front entrance to the block while two uniformed officers were present at a cordon outside the building.

Staffordshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker did not address directly the investigation in Stafford today, saying counter terror investigators would lead on the probe.

The police cordon in place this evening at the flat within this building in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford. Picture: Steve Leath/Express & Star

He said: "Our thoughts are with the family and friends of those caught up in the dreadful incident at London Bridge.

"It is an absolute tragedy for everyone affected and on behalf of Staffordshire Police I want to extend my deepest sympathies.

Staffordshire Police officers carrying out patrols nearby

"While our colleagues in Counter Terrorism Policing investigate the circumstances, this has been a reminder to us all that attacks can take place at any time and without warning.

"Therefore it is vitally important everyone remains alert but not alarmed."

Staffordshire Commissioner, Matthew Ellis, said: "My thoughts are with those affected by the awful incident in London yesterday.

A forensic search team attend the three-storey block of flats in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford. Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

"Staffordshire Police is working closely with colleagues in counter terrorism police in London and the force is keeping me updated."

Blue screens and forensic tents were erected outside the front of the semi-detached property within a police cordon.

It is understood the top floor flat inside was being searched with evidence bags being taken out during the day.

The garden area also appears to be part of the search.

Elaine Bramley, aged 53, who lives close to the flat in Wolverhampton Road, said she was “shocked and speechless” to hear about the attack, and Khan’s possible link to Stafford.

“I absolutely love this area, it’s so friendly. But unfortunately there’s always that percentage," she said.

A forensic search team move evidence in Stafford. Credit: Jacob King/PA Wire

Staffordshire County Council leader, Councillor Philip Atkins, said people living in Stafford would want to know how Khan came to be living in the area.

He said: "Stafford is a county town like many others and is home to thousands of people who peacefully live alongside one another.

“Understandably, residents will want to know more about this person’s immediate past here, but they will also know that Stafford and Staffordshire are safe, tolerant and peaceful places.”

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Why was Usman Khan released on licence?

In February 2012, Usman Khan, who had been based in Stoke-on-Trent, was handed an indeterminate sentence for public protection over his part in an al Qaida-inspired terror group that plotted to bomb the London Stock Exchange and build a terrorist training camp on land in Pakistan-controlled Kashmir owned by his family.

A list of other potential targets 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.

But the sentence for Khan, along with two co-conspirators, was quashed at the Court of Appeal in April 2013 and he was given a determinate 16-year jail term.

Bystanders and police surrounding Usman Khan on London Bridge. Credit: @HLOBlog/Twitter/PA Wire

Prisoners are usually released half-way through a determinate sentence but Khan had served less than seven years when he was freed on licence in December last year.

His time spent in custody before he was sentenced may have been taken into account.

The Parole Board said it had no involvement in his release and that Khan "appears to have been released automatically on licence (as required by law), without ever being referred to the board".

Members of the public who intervened to stop the attacker have been widely praised, with Mayor of London Sadiq Khan hailing their "breathtaking heroism" and Mr Johnson their "extraordinary bravery".

Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, speaks to the press on London Bridge in central London. Credit: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Video footage posted online shows Khan being taken to the ground as one man sprays him with a fire extinguisher and another lunges towards him with a narwhal tusk, believed to have been taken from the wall inside Fishmongers' Hall.

The attack came weeks after the UK's terrorism threat level was downgraded to "substantial" from "severe", meaning attacks were thought to be "likely" rather than "highly likely".

Home Secretary Priti Patel made the announcement on November 4 - days after Parliament voted to hold an early election.

London Bridge was the scene of a terror attack in 2017 - also during a general election campaign - when eight victims were killed along with the three terrorists, who were also wearing fake suicide vests and armed with knives.

Justice system 'simply isn't working'

Boris Johnson has said the criminal justice system "simply isn't working" after a Khan was freed halfway through his 16-year prison sentence.

Speaking at the scene on Saturday, the Prime Minister said: "I've said for a long time that I think that the practice of automatic early release - where you cut a sentence in half and let really serious violent offenders out early - simply isn't working.

"And I think you have good evidence of how that isn't working, I'm afraid, with this case."

Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick (left), Home Secretary, Priti Patel, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Commissioner of the City of London Police, Ian Dyson (right) attend the London Bridge crime scene

Also visiting London Bridge, Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick confirmed police are not actively seeking anyone else over the attack.

Officers have been searching a three-storey block of flats in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford, where Khan is believed to have lived - as well as an end-of-terrace house in Stoke-on-Trent.

Meanwhile, the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh have sent a message of sympathy to those killed and affected by the "terrible violence", and praised the "brave individuals who put their own lives at risk to selflessly help and protect others".

The attack came weeks after the UK's terrorism threat level was downgraded to "substantial" from "severe", meaning attacks were thought to be "likely" rather than "highly likely".

Police remain vigilant with patrols

Reassurance patrols were being carried out across the West Midlands in the wake of the terror attack in the capital.

Police riot vans and officers were spotted in Birmingham's New Street Station last night and visible patrols were continuing today.

Extra police and riot vans outside Birmingham's New Street Staton last night

West Midlands Police was expecting a busy weekend and said public safety would remain a priority.

More patrols had been planned with many thousands of shoppers expected in towns and cities such as Birmingham and during the Frankfurt Christmas Market.

A spokeswoman said: "Following yesterday’s attack near London Bridge we’re asking the public to remain vigilant and report any concerns they have to police."

And West Midlands Police also said it was concerned by a planned YouTube organised 'hide and seek' event run by Romell Henry and Jay Swingler giving away a £10k prize.

Two years ago a similar event saw scores of people running around Birmingham city centre and brought major disruption.

The force tweeted: "The city centre will be incredibly busy this weekend and rail transport will continue to be disrupted due to industrial action. Our priority as always is to ensure the safety of the public."

Later one of the organisers Jay Swingler tweeted the 'game' was over after three hours, adding: "[It was]A lot short than our last one but we designed the game this time to avoid riots/stampedes."

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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