A woman injured in the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack in London said in an investigation that she played herself dead after being repeatedly stabbed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan.
Isobel Rowbotham was a part-time manager of Learning Together, the group that organized the prisoner rehabilitation conference in the room where the attack took place on November 29, 2019, according to the investigation jury.
Rowbotham knew Khan before the attack and unsuccessfully pleaded with him to stop, he told the jury. She said Khan left her for dead after repeatedly stabbing her.
She said, “I remember his last stabs were to my neck, and it felt like he thought they were the last stabs as they were meant to finish me off I guess.”
He added: “I was on the ground and I had closed my eyes. I could still hear. I decided to play dead, in case he came back and found out that I wasn’t dead right away. I tried to slow down my breathing, the blood flow as much as possible. “
Rowbotham confirmed that she was taken on a stretcher and then treated at the hospital.
Before being stabbed, Rowbotham witnessed the aftermath of Khan’s knife attack on Jack Merritt, her colleague at Learning Together, who was killed along with volunteer Saskia Jones.
Rowbotham said: “He [Merritt] he was screaming that he had been stabbed. He was holding his stomach and obviously he had been injured, there was a lot of blood everywhere. He was wearing a white shirt, so the red blood was pretty obvious. He was hunched over and in a lot of pain. “
Seconds later, Khan began his attack on Rowbotham. She told the investigation: “Then I saw Usman coming towards me with knives in his hands. I particularly remember the one in his left hand. He was carrying two knives. They looked pretty big, kitchen. He seemed pretty focused. “
Rowbotham described how he begged Khan to stop. She said, “I knew who it was. So I was saying, ‘No, please don’t.’ When it was obvious that he wasn’t going to stop, I turned to my left and kind of tried to hunch over to protect myself. “
Jonathan Hough QC, attorney for the investigation, asked: “What did you feel afterwards?”
Rowbotham replied: “He stabbed me. It felt like a lot of repeated hits … I can’t count how many times. “
After the attack, Rowbotham tried to call emergency services, but could not because his phone was covered in blood. She said: “I tried to use touch ID to open my phone. There was too much blood to press on the screen, so I didn’t. “
Later, it was said in the investigation that Merritt helped book Khan on another train for the conference after the train his killer was to take was canceled.
Simon Larmour, a research associate at Learning Together, was with Merritt the morning of the conference when Khan called to tell him that a 7.39am train from his hometown of Stafford had been canceled.
Larmour had been assigned to meet Khan as he got off the train in Euston, London, before taking him to the conference.
Larmour told the investigation: “He [Usman] he was panicking because his train was canceled… While I was on the phone with Usman, Jack was looking at his phone to see if there were other trains that Usman could take. We found another train, so we headed to that one. “
When asked by Hough why he asked to meet Khan on the train, Larmour said: “I assumed there was a restriction on why he couldn’t travel alone. And that’s all I know. “
He said the probation service did not give him security instructions for dealing with someone like Khan, who was released on leave at the time.
He was also asked if he knew that Khan was a convicted terrorist. Larmour said he found out about this only after doing a Google search for his name, “because he was curious.”
Larmour said in the investigation that he had conducted two rehabilitation courses that Khan attended before being released from Whitemoor Prison on leave in December 2018. At the time, he said he did not know what crimes Khan had committed. He added: “We would not necessarily need to have a conversation about what they specifically did or the criminal behavior.”
Larmour said in the investigation: “During the course he was quite engaged and expressed his opinions.”
In a follow-up interview in March 2019, Larmour said Khan seemed “quite neurotic.” He told the investigation: “He was very focused on his time in prison, even though most of the interviews were trying to understand his life after release.”
In phone conversations between March and November 2019, Khan told Larmour that he wanted to find a job and his own place. “It seemed pretty positive,” Larmour said. “He was mostly talking about what he was writing. I was writing a play … or a story. “
But in a call a week before the conference, Larmour said Khan “seemed a bit out of place.” He added: “He was very straight to the point and it seemed like he wanted to hang up the phone … it was different.”
He told a Learning Together colleague that Khan “seemed a little weird and depressed.”
He added: “I wasn’t necessarily concerned because people coming out of jail have very volatile lives and this is part of the process. We come to expect this kind of behavior, or the ups and downs, quite regularly. “
The investigation, heard before Judge Mark Lucraft, continues.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism