LONDON: A prison chaplain who worked closely with a terrorist who attacked London Bridge has said he was “conned” by the man, who had shown remorse for his crimes and professed a desire to make a fresh start after his early release from prison.
Usman Khan was freed in December 2018 after serving time for plotting to bomb the London Stock Exchange.
Within a year of his release, he had killed two young Britons in a knife attack in central London.
Rev. Paul Foster, a prison chaplain who worked with convicts of all faiths, said while jailed, Khan had engaged positively with prison rehabilitation programs.
Giving evidence at an inquest into the deaths of Sakia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, Foster said Khan “had conversations with me about wanting to change and make a fresh start — to pay more attention to the ripple effect of his actions.”
Foster told the court that it would have surprised him to learn that while Khan was engaging with victim awareness courses, he was also attempting to radicalize other prisoners.
The chaplain was told by lawyers that at the time of his release, there was intelligence that Khan might commit an attack.
“That would be a surprise,” Foster answered. “If that intelligence is correct, he was obviously presenting himself in a way that was likely to deceive the likes of myself and others. I’m open to say I’m wrong, and it’s possible I’ve been conned.”
Foster said Khan had spoken “openly and emotionally” during a discussion with the victim of a crime.
During one session, Khan expressed “some shame” over the impact of his actions on the UK’s Muslim community, Foster added.
“We were being presented with a lot of positive things about his behavior — even some of the prisoners were telling me,” Foster said.
“In one instance a chap lost his son to a murder, and Usman was the person at his door offering his condolences and asking if he could help. He appeared to show remorse for what he’d done.”
The 2018 London Bridge attack prompted discussion in the UK over the efficacy of prisoner rehabilitation programs, as well as the policy of releasing certain prisoners early.
Since then, the government has announced measures that will enforce stricter sentences on people convicted of terror offenses, as well as wider monitoring of those convicted and released.
British police shoot suspect dead in London Bridge terrorist incident, two civilians killedLondon Bridge attacker had been convicted of terrorism offenses but released last year