A student working on a prisoner rehabilitation project has said she played dead after a terrorist attacked her with a knife and tried to “finish me”.
Izzy Rowbotham, then a student at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, said Usman Khan stabbed her repeatedly in the body and neck in an attempt to murder her.
Two other workers on the project – Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones – were stabbed to death by Khan on 29 November 2019 during a conference at London’s Fishmongers’ Hall, before he was shot dead on London Bridge.
Ms Rowbotham worked part time as an office manager for the Learning Together project, which ran courses in prisons where university students studied alongside inmates, the inquest into the deaths was told.
At the end of a workshop session with colleagues, she had been at the entrance desk, when Mr Merritt, the course coordinator, emerged from the toilets at around 1.57pm.
“He was holding his stomach and he’d obviously been injured. There was a lot of blood everywhere.
“He was moving towards the exit and the reception room to my right. He was wearing a white shirt, so the red blood was quite obvious. He was hunched and in a lot of pain.
“I looked round to my left and I saw Usman (Khan) coming towards me with knives in his hands.
“I particularly remember the one in his left and but he was carrying two knives. They seemed quite big, kitchen knives.
“I don’t know if he was running or not but he seemed to be moving quite fast, purposefully. He seemed quite intent.
“I knew who it was. I said, ‘No Usman please don’t’ and when it was obvious he wasn’t going to stop, I turned to my left and tried to hunch and protect myself.”
The stabs felt “more like punches, I guess, a lot of repeated punches. I didn’t count how many at the time.
“I remember his final stabs were in my neck and it felt like he thought they were the final steps in that they were meant to finish me, I guess, and also the attack.”
She tried to use her mobile phone to dial 999 but the touch ID would not work because there was too much blood.
“I was on the floor and had closed my eyes. I decided to play dead just in case he came back again and realised I wasn’t dead straight away.
“I tried to slow down my breathing and blood flow as much as possible.”
The inquest heard that police and ambulance medics arrived before she was taken to hospital.
Ama Otchere, housekeeping supervisor for Fishmongers’ Hall told the inquest that she saw Khan emerge from the toilets reciting the Koran after stabbing Mr Merritt.
“He wasn’t calm. You can see from his face, you can see the anger in his face.”
She backed into the cloakroom and, as she did so, Khan spotted Saskia Jones who had come to the room to put her coat back.
He “used the knife to stab the lady’s shoulder and I turned my back and ran,” Ms Otchere said.
“The lady did not know what is going on there. You could see the lady coming up to the desk, she didn’t have her eye on him initially.
“When I saw him put the knife in the lady and the lady screamed, I just ran from the scene.”
Ms Otchere said Khan was saying something in Arabic and added: “He was reciting the Koran.”
A prayer book was later found on the floor of the cubicle where he had taped the knives around his wrists.
She escaped down a staircase by the powder room and told the porter, Lukasz Koczocik, there was a stabbing upstairs.
“Lukasz said, ‘I’m going to deal with the situation,” Ms Otchere said, as he went up to confront Khan.
Mr Koczocik, the porter, grabbed a pike and went outside with some other people and two to three minutes later the police arrived.
Mr Merritt had injuries to the top of his chest, both arms, and when they turned him over they saw a wound to his back.
Bodyworn cameras captured the scene as Sergeant Daniel Murphy could be heard saying: “Right, clothing off, come here, get the clothing off. Keep working, keep working” and calling for “tough cut” scissors.
“He’s got a stab wound here in the arm,” he added. “It’s alright buddy, it’s alright mate. What’s your name? Talk to me, talk to me. It’s alright, I got you.”
Tourniquets were being applied and Mr Merritt could be heard crying out as PC Nash added: “Relax, relax, we have you. Alright young man alright.”
PC Kate Langtry reassured him: “Stay with us darling,” then added: “Got no breathing, step back, I’m going to press the button.”
Paramedics arrived at 2.21pm, 25 minutes after the attack, as Mr Merritt was in cardiac arrest, and at 2.33pm, he was declared dead.