07 June 2021

Terrorist Usman Khan’s hoax suicide belt ‘looked like real device’, inquest told

07 June 2021

The suicide belt worn by Fishmongers’ Hall terrorist Usman Khan when he was shot by police was “an elaborate hoax” which looked like a realistic device capable of mass destruction and death, an expert has told his inquest.

Khan, 28, was said to have used items including parts from an Xbox controller, an Energizer battery charger, cling film, bandages, Gorilla Glue and a weightlifting belt to fashion the device he wore under his coat to a prisoner education event in central London on November 29 2019.

Khan fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, before fleeing to nearby London Bridge where he was tackled to the ground by members of the public and then shot at 20 times by police, in two spells eight minutes apart.

Incident at London Bridge (PA Media)

Police giving evidence at Khan’s inquest previously described how they were trained to treat devices as viable until proven otherwise.

Matthew Middleditch, the technical lead of the Met’s explosives ordnance disposal unit, described how he agreed with a report from the UK’s Bomb Disposal Centre that Khan’s device was “an elaborate hoax, with what appears to be some effort made to manufacture a reasonable facsimile of a suicide belt”.

Mr Middleditch told inquest jurors at the Guildhall in the City of London on Monday: “I would agree with that statement entirely.

“The make up is a very good facsimile of a person-borne IED (improvised explosive device).”

He said it compared well with real devices he had seen during his quarter-century career as an explosives expert, including several years serving with the military in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He added: “With the experience I have, I wouldn’t be able to recognise it (Khan’s) as a hoax without carrying out further examination of it.

Incident at London Bridge (PA Media)

“I would have thought I was looking at a real person-borne IED.”

Mr Middleditch said he would not expect police officers called to the scene to have been able to differentiate between Khan’s hoax and a viable device.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the inquest, asked: “Would you expect any officer to be able to recognise this device as a hoax device, whether by close inspection or by inspection from a distance?”

Mr Middleditch replied: “No I wouldn’t, sir.”

The inquest heard Khan struck 11 months after being released from prison after serving eight years for planning a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.

Khan, from Stafford, is alleged to have shouted “Allahu Akbar” after first being shot by police, before writhing around on the ground for eight minutes, then sitting upright and staring at firearms officers who opened fire.

His death was confirmed roughly an hour later when the scene had been made safe.

The inquest is due to conclude later this week.

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