Fishmongers’ Hall inquest hears how brave porter tried to stab Usman Khan with spear to stop his attack
The jury at the inquest into the deaths of University of Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones heard how a kitchen porter repeatedly tried to stab the Fishmongers’ Hall attacker with a large decorative spear in an attempt to stop his bloody rampage.
Lukasz Koczocik sprang into action when the alarm was raised at the prisoner rehabilitation event attended by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, who then fatally stabbed Jack, 25, from Cottenham, and Saskia, 23, from Stratford-upon-Avon, and injured several others.
Mr Koczocik said he grabbed a maritime ornament known as a boarding pike from the wall of the grade II-listed building as he and men clutching chairs, a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk tried to disarm Khan, who was brandishing knives and wearing a fake suicide belt, during the incident on November 29 2019.
Khan, 28, was later chased along London Bridge, where he was killed by armed police.
Giving evidence to the inquests into their deaths at the Guildhall in the City of London on Tuesday, Polish national Mr Koczocik said: “For some reason I decided to grab this boarding pike that was attached to the wall and that was the best thing I could do.
“The next thing I remember – me going back to the lobby area and being with this man (Khan) face to face.
“I decided he had to be hurt, because I realised what was happening. I tried to stab him.
“A couple of times, I tried to stab him in the face, he was batting me away. I took the aim of his stomach. I did hit him in that area but it didn’t do any damage.
“I heard a metallic clink, so I thought he was wearing some armour.”
Mr Koczocik said Khan, from Stafford, did not appear to be injured by the metal-tipped wooden implement.
He said: “Once I managed to land a strike on his (Khan’s) belly, he grabbed the pike in one hand, still holding the knives, and I couldn’t shake him off.
“He caught me in the hand and in the shoulder.
“I dropped the pike because he cut the tendon in my hands so I couldn’t grip it.”
Mr Koczocik said the men with the fire extinguisher and the tusk then chased Khan out of Fishmongers’ Hall, prompting the porter to warn nearby members of the public that Khan was armed.
Butler Jeffrey Stevelman, who witnessed the confrontation between Mr Koczocik and Khan, said the scene was “absolute chaos”.
He told the inquests: “Lukasz was hitting this chap (Khan) over the head, there was this ‘Mexican standoff’.
“He (Khan) stood there and opened his jacket and started shouting: ‘I’ve got a bomb, call the police, I’ve got a bomb.’
“You stand there and try to process it. It was just unreal.”
He told the inquests he did not believe Fishmongers’ Hall was the right venue for such an event.
Earlier, witnesses also described coming face to face with Khan during the ordeal.
Simon Bird, a maintenance electrician working at Fishmongers’ Hall on the day of the atrocity, said he heard Khan shouting for the front doors to be opened to make good his escape onto London Bridge.
He said: “The first thing I noticed is one of the ceremonial plaques wasn’t on the wall, and I heard a voice from someone I now know to be Usman Khan: ‘Open the effing door, open the effing door.’
“The first thing I noticed was his beard, then my eyes were drawn down and I saw a large kitchen knife in his hand.
“Then my eyes were drawn down further and I saw what I described as a river of blood.”
Criminology graduate Stephanie Szczotko, who survived being stabbed by “expressionless” Khan in her arm and torso, said she remembered trying to raise her arm to defend herself during the attack.
She said: “The knife didn’t look metallic, it looked ceramic.
“The knife was already above his head, I think I instinctively raised my arm just as he struck.
“For a moment I felt I was just paused in that moment. I remember looking at him with shock and confusion.”
Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquiry, referred to Ms Szczotko’s witness statement, in which she said Khan “didn’t seem particularly bothered or psyched up, he didn’t seem angry, he didn’t have any expression on his face”.
Ms Szczotko added: “He was expressionless, yes.”
Another witness, Ann-Marie Willison, recalled seeing Mr Merritt moments before he was fatally stabbed, and said she initially thought the disturbance was a domestic argument.
Emergency doctor Samy Sadek said nothing further could have been done to save either Mr Merritt or Ms Jones, despite the best efforts of emergency services and bystanders.
Dr Sadek said the gravity of the situation was evident “on the face and in the voice of the police” upon his arrival at the scene.
Dr Sadek also said his team had to assess casualties despite rumours of a bomb and concerns that Khan was not acting alone.
“We were attempting to establish whether there was an ongoing threat to us,” he said.
“No-one was able to tell us if there was one or more assailant.”
The jury inquests, taking place before coroner Mark Lucraft QC, continues today (Wednesday).