London Bridge fire extinguisher hero revealed to be killer who turned life around

6 December 2019, 05:54 | Updated: 6 December 2019, 10:22

Passers-by confront the terrorist on London Bridge
Passers-by confront the terrorist on London Bridge. Picture: Twitter

By Asher McShane

A man seen tackling London Bridge attacker Usman Khan with a fire extinguisher was a convicted killer on parole who was friends with the terrorist's victim Jack Merritt.

John Crilly has been named in reports as the man in a video clip spraying Khan after the terrorist had stabbed and killed Jack and Saskia Jones last Friday.

Mr Crilly served 13 years in prison after being convicted of murdering 71-year-old Augustine Maduemezia, but his conviction was quashed after a Supreme Court ruling on joint enterprise law and he was released in 2018, the Sun reports.

The court ruled the law on joint enterprise - where defendants were prosecuted for murder even if they did not strike the fatal blow - had been misinterpreted.

Killer: Usman Khan killed two people in his knife rampage in central London
Killer: Usman Khan killed two people in his knife rampage in central London. Picture: PA

Mr Crilly met Mr Merritt while in prison, where the Cambridge graduate was a course coordinator for the Learning Together programme, the Sun said.

The 48-year-old studied for an Open University law degree while in prison and Mr Merritt attended his graduation this year, the paper added.

Jack Merritt was killed in the attack
Jack Merritt was killed in the attack. Picture: Social Media

Following the incident, Mr Crilly spoke highly of his friend, saying Mr Merritt attended his graduation and was the "best guy I ever met".

He said on Facebook: "(Jack) was killed by a s**thouse of a pathetic rubber dingy rapids type terrorist."

The remark is a reference to the comedy film Four Lions which mocks terrorists, say life is like being in the queue at Alton Towers, waiting to get on the 'rubber dingy rapids' ride.

Mr Crilly continued: "Jack actually tried helping this guy! To educate him. As he educated me.

"Jack came all the way from Cambridge to be at my graduation...

"How proud am I to be called Jack Merritt's friend."Speaking when he was released in 2018, Mr Crilly told the BBC: "I had a bad life, I've changed it, I wasn't guilty of murder.

"I totally accept what I did and it was wrong... I would have done the time, I would have done every day of that."

Mr Crilly's friend, Michelle Crosby, said Mr Merritt would have been "proud" of his actions on London Bridge.

She said: "You've been through such a trauma, your response was heroic, I'm sure your friend would be proud of you. We all are!

"Such a shit world Crilly but you lot took it on and didn't let him win.

"RIP to Jack, thoughts are with you all."

Cambridge University graduates Ms Jones, 23, and Mr Merritt, 25, were attacked during a prisoner rehabilitation event at Fishmongers' Hall last Friday afternoon.

Convicted terrorist Khan, 28, who was living in Stafford, was later identified as their killer.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police.

Mr Merritt, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, worked on the programme associated with Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology which is aimed at bringing offenders and people in higher education to "study alongside each other".

Saskia Jones was also killed in the attack on London Bridge last Friday
Saskia Jones was also killed in the attack on London Bridge last Friday. Picture: PA

A statement from his family said: "Jack Merritt, our beautiful, talented boy, died doing what he loved, surrounded by people he loved and who loved him. He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly.

"Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.

"Jack was an intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic person who was looking forward to building a future with his girlfriend, Leanne, and making a career helping people in the criminal justice system."

Ms Jones, a volunteer on the programme from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, was described as having "great passion" for providing support to victims of crime by her family.

In a statement they said: "She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be."

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