Terrorist Usman Khan was stopped from going on a course to learn how to drive a dumper truck because of concerns around the potential for it to be used in a terror attack, an inquest heard.
Giving evidence at the inquiries into the deaths of Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones, who were killed by Khan at Fishmongers’ Hall in 2019, probation officer Phil Bromley said Khan had applied to go on a construction course in the July before the murders.
Mr Bromley told the inquest: “I think there had been some things in the media around vehicles used in possible (terror) attacks.
“I wasn’t sure about the dumper truck.
“It seemed an idea to suspend it (Khan’s participation in the course) until we knew a bit more.”
Mr Merritt, 25, and 23-year-old Ms Jones, were knifed to death by the former Haywood High School pupil at the Learning Together Event in November 2019. They were working on the project, which aimed to help offenders. Khan, who had previously been in jail, was one of the attendees on the course.
Mr Bromley, who stopped being Usman Khan’s direct probation officer in 2017, said he was “broadly in support” of Khan attending a future Learning Together event, but said he was unaware of the specifics regarding the Fishmongers’ Hall event.
He said: “The feedback and the information I was getting was he (Khan) seemed to be getting a lot out of it and was enjoying it.
More on Usman Khan
“It was a constructive use of his time, which is not always easy to do with high-risk offenders coming out of prison.”
Mr Bromley said he supported Khan being permitted to move out of his approved premises and into a private flat in September 2019, adding: “It seemed like the natural time for him to progress.”
Mr Bromley, who was the line manager for Khan’s probation officer Ken Skelton upon Khan’s release from prison, said the feedback was that the 28-year-old was doing well in the community.
He said: “He continued to make good progress… there was nothing coming to me that caused any concern.”
He said he was aware of some concerns that Khan – who grew up in Cobridge and Tunstall – was becoming isolated, but said it did not cause him undue worry.
He said: “We were aware Mr Khan’s family were in Stoke-on-Trent which isn’t too far away.
“I don’t remember being more concerned than the ordinary.”
The inquests heard how Mr Bromley emailed probation colleagues and the police in September 2019 to request that a new mentor be found for Usman Khan, after the existing contract came to an end.
No mentoring took place from September, Khan moved out of the approved premises into his own flat, and he remained unemployed.
Yet there was no risk assessment review done for Khan at the time, despite the significant changes in his life.
Mr Bromley earlier told the inquests that Khan appeared to be making progress.
However, Henry Pitchers QC, for Saskia Jones’ family, said Khan was “lacking any purpose in day-to-day life”, adding: “A critical look at those few months would have given rise to a very different picture.”
Mr Bromley denied the suggestion from Mr Pitchers that he would have objected to Khan attending the Fishmongers’ Hall event had he known about the lack of security planning, such as bags not being searched and Khan arriving unaccompanied by police.
He said: “The impression I was getting was he was doing well and Learning Together was a part of that.
“It would have been difficult to keep refusing Mr Khan to do things.”
Mr Bromley denied the suggestion that he and Mr Skelton had failed in their supervision of Khan.
Nick Armstrong, for the family of Jack Merritt, suggested the probation service had failed because of the lack of structured decision-making processes assessing Khan’s risk for several months after he left prison.
Mr Bromley replied: “It’s not ideal, but there was still the top-level oversight,” adding Khan’s licence conditions remained in place and he was still monitored by police.
Mr Armstrong said: “You said the feedback you were receiving is he seemed to be making good progress. That is because he has remained complaint and quiet.”
But Mr Armstrong said there was no evidence Khan had addressed his behaviour, such as his need for status and his failure to recognise his wrongdoing.
Mr Bromley said: “In custody, some of that had been addressed.”
Khan, from Stafford, armed himself with knives and strapped a fake suicide belt to his waist before attacking conference delegates.
He was later chased by three men, armed with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal tusk, onto London Bridge where he was shot dead by police.
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