LONDON – The cry of a woman was the first sign of a terrorist attack John Crilly had. For a moment he was not sure if it was a real problem, he said, but then "it got louder, much more intense."
It sounded as if they were both in the same building, the historic one Fish shop on the north bank of the Thames. When he was about to investigate, he saw Saskia Jones wounded and "stretched out with arms outstretched over the stairs," recalled Mr. Crilly, who would be celebrated on Nov. 29 as the hero of the deadly incident on London Bridge.
Her attacker, Usman Khan, stood at the foot of the stairs, a knife protruding from each hand. Mr. Khan said, "Something like" kill everyone "or" kill you "or something about killing people," said Mr. Crilly, 48, the BBC in an emotional interview released Thursday.
He risked his own safety and launched himself at the killer, armed with improvised tools – first a wooden lectern and then a fire extinguisher – when the collision started in a central London building and then spread to the street. He saw that Mr. Khan wore an explosive suicide belt, though it turned out to be a fake.
"I only yell at him to blow him," recalled Mr. Crilly, "as if he were calling his deception." He said Mr. Khan, a convicted terrorist, replied that he was waiting to detonate the device after the police arrived.
"I was ready to lose my life – yes, I think so," said Crilly.
He and Mr. Khan, 28, both former prison inmates, had gone to a conference organized by Learning Together, a program organized by the University of Cambridge to inform and reform prisoners. There were also Ms. Jones (23) and Mr. Crilly's friend Jack Merritt, 25, recently graduated in Cambridge and passionately advocating for inmates.
Mr. Khan fatally stabbed Mr. Merritt, a senior of Learning Together, who had worked with Mr. Crilly, and Mrs. Jones, a volunteer for the program, and wounded others. Crilly and several other people tried to subjugate him and pursued him as he ran from the building onto London Bridge, scattering the usual crowd of pedestrians.
Mr. Crilly sprayed him with the fire extinguisher. Another man nudged the attacker with a narwhal tusk that he had pulled from a display in the hall, and another hit him with a pole. As Mr. Khan struck them, they managed to wrestle him onto the sidewalk and take away at least one of his knives.
When the police arrived, Mr. Crilly told the BBC, "It seemed like a long time ago they shot him. "
" I also screamed to shoot him, "he said," just in case he blew up his belt. "
At least one policeman shot and killed Mr. Khan.
Mr. Khan pleaded guilty to planning terrorist attacks and was imprisoned for eight years. After he claimed to have changed his views, he was released in December 2018.
Mr. Crilly served 13 years. He and a partner broke into a house in Manchester, where they met a 71-year-old man who lived there.
According to the BBC, the other burglar hit the resident and killed him. Crilly, along with his co-defendant, was convicted of murder and burglary and sentenced to life imprisonment under the UK Joint Venture Act.
However, the UK Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the law had been misinterpreted for years. Mr. Crilly, who had completed law school in prison, was the only one who had previously suspended a joint corporate conviction for murder
He told the BBC that Mr. Merritt had changed his life.
"he said," Jack basically meant only hope. "
Mayor Sadiq Khan of London later cited" the breathtaking heroism of members of the public who literally ran the risk and did not know what confronted them. "
But Mr. Crilly said he does not consider himself a hero.
" Jack gave up his life, "he said, closing his tearful eyes as his voice broke "He would be my hero."