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Terrorist on our doorstep: Neighbours reeling after London Bridge plot hatched in Stafford flat

By Megan Archer | Stafford | Crime | Published:

The deadly terror plot hatched in a Stafford flat by evil Usman Khan has left neighbours in disbelief as police finished scouring his home for clues.

Usman Khan, inset, and the flat he lived in in Wolverhampton Road, Stafford

The trail of terror that left two dead on London Bridge was quickly traced 140 miles back to Wolverhampton Road in Stafford.

It focused on where Khan lived in an unassuming flat next door to the Star and Garter pub.

Last night, the Metropolitan Police confirmed the second victim was 23-year-old Saskia Jones, from Stratford-upon-Avon, who died along with 25-year-old Jack Merritt, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire.

Victims Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones

Meanwhile West Midlands Police said a 34-year-old man arrested in Stoke-on-Trent on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts has been recalled to prison due to a suspected breach of his licence conditions.

Khan was raised in Stoke before moving to Stafford.

A vigil will be held in London today to pay tribute to the victims and to honour the emergency services and members of the public who responded to the incident.

Mr Merritt and Ms Jones were both graduates of the University of Cambridge and were involved in the Learning Together programme – Mr Merritt as a co-ordinator and Ms Jones as a volunteer.

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Khan was attending a conference held by the prison rehabilitation when he carried out at the attack on Friday afternoon.

WATCH: Neighbour remembers Usman Khan

Stafford resident speaks out over London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan

After he was disarmed by members of the public before being shot dead on Friday police swarmed his Stafford apartment, moving tenants out and putting them in emergency accommodation before cordoning off the building until Sunday evening.

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One resident passing by recalled seeing Khan - known for his distinctive Timberland boots - coming in and out of the flat.

Callum Wilkes who can see the block of flats from his window, said he remembered Khan, and would often see him leave the building some mornings.

“The police cordoned off the building at about 7pm on Friday and they’ve been there ever since," the 21-year-old said.

Usman Khan's neighbour Callum Wilkes

“From what I’ve heard they searched the third floor and then moved onto the second floor where the guy’s apartment was.

“I saw him a few times. He was a bit more well groomed than the photo that’s being circulated though.

“He was always wearing those Timberlands. It was like they were the only pair of shoes he had.

"It’s scary, to know a terrorist was living just 30 seconds from your doorstep.”

More on this story:

Convicted terrorist Khan, 28, was on licence and wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he launched the attack, which injured three others, after he was invited to the prisoner rehabilitation conference at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge on Friday afternoon.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, Khan was tackled by members of the public before he was shot dead by police.

The attack has prompted the Ministry of Justice to review the licence conditions of every convicted terrorist released from prison, which Prime Minister Boris Johnson said was “probably about 74” people.

Minute's silence

A minute's silence was held in Stafford and all across the Black Country this morning as communities remembered those who lost their lives in the London Bridge terrorist attack.

Stafford Borough Council – as well as Walsall, Wolverhampton, Sandwell and Dudley Councils – took part in a moment of silence at 11am to coincide with the vigil for Mr Merritt and Miss Jones.

Leader of Stafford Borough Council, Councillor Patrick Farrington, took part in the minute of silence for the victims.

He said: "Our thoughts are with friends and family of those killed in this shocking attack and those affected by this tragic incident.

"We are also grateful to the bravery of those caught up in this incident and to our emergency services.

"We appreciate our community will want to know more about what is happening because of the fact this man was living in Stafford. And we are liaising with the police and partner agencies to see if we can assist in any way."

'We had 10 minutes to get out'

“You don’t expect this, in little Stafford,” said Kayleigh Parsons.

The 32-year-old mother lives in the annex at the back of the block of flats being searched by police, and was forced to move out. She had no idea when she can go home.

“I had a knock on the door on Friday night and police said we needed to evacuate," she said.

Kayleigh Parsons who was waiting to be allowed back home as the investigation continued

"We had 10 minutes and we had to get out. I’ve got a 14-year-old son.

"We had to stay at a friend’s but now the police are finding us emergency accommodation.

“It’s shocking really. I’ve never even seen him before. It makes you worry really, that he lived so close.”

Walking along Wolverhampton Road, little did people know there was a terrorist living nearby

There’s a pub with a beer garden, a church, a small supermarket, and a handful of businesses – a solicitors, a hair salon and a vets.

WATCH: Shock at murderer in their midst

Neighbours in shock as terror attack plot hatched on doorstep

Neighbours walk along the narrow street towards Stafford town centre and several houses already have the Christmas decorations up.

But now, there’s a thick layer of uncertainty, and fear – a terrorist was freely living in a flat just a stone’s throw from the town centre.

Richard Smith, a plasterer and regular in the Star & Garter pub, based next door to the flats, said it wasn’t something that happened in Stafford.

“Maybe Birmingham, or Manchester – you’d expect it. But not Stafford. It just doesn’t happen here,” he said.

The flat is close to the Star and Garter pub in Wolverhampton Road

Callum Wilkes, aged 21, also remembers seeing Khan coming and going but never suspected anything of his neighbour saying he was always well turned out.

Councillor Maureen Compton, who represents the centre of Stafford on Staffordshire County Council, added: “It’s a horrendous situation. It’s just appalling really and it’s very concerning.

“But we have to leave this to the police to deal with because they know what they are doing.”

Dog walker Lucy Forrester, who lives round the corner from the Wolverhampton Road flats, said she was “blind-sided” by the news – the terrorist attack happened on her 31st birthday.

Lucy Forrester

“It’s quite a surreal thought – that someone could be living so close by who has the potential to do something like that,” she said.

“I never would have expected it. It does make you think. I wouldn’t say it frightens me because what’s what they want.

"I want to believe there are good people in the world otherwise you start looking at everyone with suspicion.”

Postman Melvin Jones, who lives just a few doors along from Lucy, said the realisation that a terrorist had lived just round the corner from his home was “frightening”.

Postman Melvin Jones

“It’s scary – frightening – that someone like that was living so close by. And no-one knew,” he said. “My wife is a little bit wary going out now. But as a postman, I meet a lot of people, and you’ve just got to live your life haven’t you?

“It’s a bit scary as my wife always takes the dog for a walk up the alley by that building. It’s quite a popular place for dog walkers.”

Wolverhampton Road is often busy with pedestrians walking towards the town centre – locals are often passing back and forth in front of the now ominous block of flats.

New mother Jessica Prince said she was shocked: “I didn’t expect it at all. You don’t realise it could all be on your doorstep. And the pub next door, the Star & Garter, that most people’s local.

Jessica Prince of Stafford

“It’s scary.”

The 24-year-old is on maternity leave with her newborn and said the news has made her a little cautious around the town.

“It’s a little bit worrying. You don’t know who your neighbours are do you? To think, I probably have seen him walking around but I wouldn’t have been looking for him. I only look for people I know.”

Factory worker Anna Kordon has lived in her home in Wolverhampton Road – almost directly opposite the flats – for four years.

Anna Kordon

A 42-year-old factory worker, she said she had never imagined anything like this could happen. “I’m in shock. I don’t know why he could have done it. But it’s not about the place – about Stafford. It’s about the human who did it.

“This is a nice place.”

In Stoke a property is also being scoured in Lanehead Road in Etruria.

Police staff wearing white forensic suits were seen entering an end-of-terrace house while plain-clothes officers visited a property in nearby Cobridge, believed to be the home of a relative of Khan.

Megan Archer

By Megan Archer
Chief Reporter - @MeganA_Star

Chief Reporter with the Express & Star. Give me a call on 01902 319363 or email megan.archer@expressandstar.co.uk.

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