United Kingdom

Prison psychologist was 'very worried' about convicted terrorist Usman Khan before he was released

A prison psychologist has told how she was 'very worried' about convicted terrorist Usman Khan before he was released and carried out the Fishmongers' Hall attack.

Giving evidence at an inquest on Friday, Ieva Cechaviciute said a colleague had previously regarded Khan as 'superficial and full of hot air'.

But following a series of interviews over six-and-a-half hours, Ms Cechaviciute was left 'very worried' ahead of his impending release into the community.

The witness had spoken to Khan in January 2018 at HMP Whitemoor for an Extremism Risk Guidelines (ERG) report.

Giving evidence at an inquest on Friday, Ieva Cechaviciute said a colleague had previously regarded Khan as 'superficial and full of hot air'

But following a series of interviews over six-and-a-half hours, Ms Cechaviciute was left 'very worried' ahead of his impending release into the community

On his manner during the interviews, she said: 'It appeared that it was underlying anger and bitterness in his approach towards me but I think he was trying to be very polite in the interview.'

Her interviews led to the conclusion that Khan had made 'little progress' in prison and did not understand his risk, the court heard.

Being in jail had even made him a 'greater risk' and 'elevated his profile', jurors heard.

The witness also noted intelligence that Khan had radicalised others and was involved with extremist gangs.

Jonathan Hough QC, counsel for the coroner, asked: 'What was your view of Khan and his progress?'

She said it was 'very difficult to see whether he made any genuine progress'.

The witness told jurors she had assessed that Khan's risk of engaging in 'extremist activity' would increase upon his release.

Mr Hough asked: 'To what extent did these conclusions reflect a real cause for worry about somebody who is going to be released in eight months' time?'

She replied: 'That was very worrying to me and I really was very worried how to communicate this to whoever was reading my report, so therefore I went into a lot of detail explaining the pattern of his behaviour and trying to communicate that his risk is likely to increase when he is released.'

On November 29 2019, 11 months after his release, Khan, from Stafford, fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt (pictured), 25

When confronted with incidents of violence or anything portraying him in a 'negative light', Khan responded by 'rationalising it, minimising it or denying it', she said.

'That means he will not be able to manage his risk because he's not aware of it and not interested in managing himself,' she said.

While Khan might have wanted to change, he was 'not being very successful at it', she added.

Mr Hough asked: 'You thought his risk of extremism had got worse as a result of custody although he had entered custody as a terrorist offender?'

The witness agreed, saying that was despite opportunities to learn and engage during his time in jail.

When she reviewed her report with Khan, he was 'very upset, very angry' and 'did not see the report as valid at all', Ms Cechaviciute said.

She added he had portrayed himself as 'a victim of the security department' and denied negative intelligence about him.

The witness had flagged potential warning signs to look for following his release, including lack of purpose, boredom and unemployment.

The court has previously heard that Khan's attempts to find a job were unsuccessful and he spent time alone at home playing on his Xbox.

Khan also stabbed Saskia Jones (pictured), 23, at Fishmongers' Hall in London during his rampage

Sharron Ford worked as a probation officer at approved accommodation in Stafford where Khan lived between December 2018 and September 24 2019, when he moved into a flat.

She told jurors he had seemed 'really positive' and 'engaged'.

Ms Ford, who saw Khan once a fortnight, said he was also 'building bridges' with his family whom he saw once a week.

During one discussion it was noted that Khan had been talking about his life before custody.

Notes from the time stated that he 'believed he was an angry young man as he wanted to be in a relationship with a female whose family were set against it because she was destined for an arranged marriage'.

He stated that they got married 'in secret' and therefore it was never a legal marriage.

Khan went on to say that it formed part of his 'anger' which grew because he was 'subject to racism'.

After Khan moved out, he only returned once, to attend a wellbeing day, the court heard.

Asked how he seemed, Ms Ford said: 'Really happy.'

On November 29 2019, 11 months after his release, Khan, from Stafford, fatally stabbed Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, at Fishmongers' Hall.

He was chased on to London Bridge by members of the public armed with a fire extinguisher and narwhal tusk and was then shot dead by police.

The inquest at the Guildhall into the victims' deaths continues.

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