A reformed prisoner who fought the London Bridge terrorist with a fire extinguisher has told of how he was ‘prepared to die’ to save other people’s lives.
John Crilly initially attacked Usman Khan, 28, with a lectern as the fanatic stabbed staff at a prisoner rehabilitation conference. After the lectern snapped in half, he tried to batter Khan with a chair.
Mr Crilly, 48, then grabbed a fire extinguisher off the wall and sprayed foam at the fake suicide vest Khan was wearing.
The ex-convict told of how he tackled him while he still believed he was wearing a suicide vest and said: ‘I was screaming at him to blow it. I was prepared to lose my life.’
Mr Crilly, who served 13 years in prison for murder before his sentence was reduced to manslaughter, claims the police ‘took their time’ in deciding to shoot the terrorist, causing him to shout ‘shoot him’.
He told the BBC: ‘It seemed like ages before they shot him. It wasn’t all gung-ho and trigger happy, they proper took their time, to the point where I did scream ‘shoot him’.
Mr Crilly was attending a Learning Together conference on prisoner rehabilitation at Fishmongers’ Hall by London Bridge when Khan fatally stabbed two former Cambridge University students on November 29.
Describing the moment the tragedy unfolded, he said he heard a ‘high-pitched scream’ and knew something was wrong.
He ran down a flight of stairs to find Saskia Jones, 23, lying wounded on the floor before spotting Khan in a nearby corridor carrying two knives.
Asking the attacker frantically what he was doing, Mr Crilly recalls him saying ‘something like ‘kill everyone’, or ‘kill you’ – ‘something about killing people.’
Mr Crilly paid tribute to Jack Merritt, 25, who also lost his life in the attack.
He described himself as being ‘close friends’ with the Cambridge graduate who coordinated the Learning Together programme he says changed his life.
The 48-year-old said he was ‘easy to talk to’ and ‘made you feel comfortable’.
But asked whether he would describe himself as a hero he said: ‘No. Jack gave up his life, he would be my hero.’
John Crilly has told of how he tackled Usman Khan while he still believed he was wearing a suicide vest and said: ‘I was screaming at him to blow it. I was prepared to lose my life.’
Describing the moment he grabbed the fire extinguisher, Mr Crilly told the Daily Mirror earlier this week: ‘At first, I thought I’d throw that at him, then I thought I could spray it and soak the belt, maybe short-circuit the belt.
‘I started spraying him and it seemed to do the job. I was spraying it in his eyes. He was all covered in foam and then he came bursting through it again with the knives.
‘He’d gone for the door and I followed him out. He started heading to the bridge and I remember just seeing all these people and screaming at them to move.’
He added: ‘I keep spraying him. He can’t see and that gives the guy [with the narwhal tusk] a chance to give him a poke.’
At this point, Mr Crilly and others forced Khan to the floor and jumped on him to stop him from stabbing anyone else.
‘I’ve got his right hand and I’m trying to get the blades off him, and then the police were there, telling us to back off him,’ Mr Crilly said.
‘They kept telling him to stop moving. I was shouting, ‘just shoot him’. They shot him twice and he was still moving. He had the belt on. They shot him again.’
Mr Crilly told how the terror attack started in the conference room before moving outside to the bridge.
Asked whether he would describe himself as a hero he said: ‘No. Jack gave up his life, he would be my hero,’ referring to Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt, 25, who died in the attack and was a ‘close friend’ of the reformed prisoner Mr Crilly (pictured)
‘At the bottom of the stairs stood Usman Khan with his two knives out jumping about like a mad man,’ he said ‘It didn’t take too long to realise what was going on. Without stereotyping, he had a big beard, two knives, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’.
Crilly, a former heroin addict and career criminal, was originally sentenced to life in prison in 2005 after a pensioner was killed by his accomplice in a botched burglary
‘He lunged towards me with the knife. There was a lectern at the bottom of the stairs, so I picked that up and ran at him. It snapped in half like a big stick, so I went for him again with it.
‘I hit him with a chair and he’s lost his balance and gone flying over the other side of the room.
‘He was swinging the knives all over the place and obviously he’s got the belt.’
Mr Crilly, a former heroin addict, was part of a Manchester burglary gang that ransacked the home of Augustine Maduemezia, 71, in 2005. During the raid, accomplice David Flynn killed the pensioner a single punch.
Mr Crilly served 13 years in prison for the murder Mr Maduemezia before his conviction was quashed by the Supreme Court.
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.
Mr Crilly then pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and was released on licence shortly afterwards.
John Crilly, pictured left with London Bridge attack victim Jack Merritt (right), described the pair as ‘close friends’