London Bridge hero John Crilly spoke about the terrifying moment he faced down a terrorist, believing the man had an explosive device strapped around his belt.

Speaking to Kate Garraway and Ben Shephard on Good Morning Britain, in a TV exclusive, he said:

“The way it gets portrayed it seems more like a bit of an action movie. It seems so surreal.”

Talking about how the day unfolded, he said: “The day was just a celebration of the ‘Learning Together’ scheme, that has been running. Because it is spread so far up and down the country, it was a chance for everyone to come together…

“The critical part of it is for the people in prison who have never experienced that kind of education or interacted with those kind of educated people. I studied for a law degree.”

On when he first realised there was a serious problem, he continued: “It all happened so quickly. We were out on the balcony above the staircase, having a chat. All of a sudden a load of noise started… we could hear screaming and female voices. Initially, it wasn’t clear if it was horse-play or messing about, within a few seconds it got more intense and there was no doubting something was afoot downstairs.”

Quizzed on when he picked up the fire-extinguisher to help defend himself, he explained: “The fire-extinguisher was near the end. We were fighting inside, for [it] couldn’t have been that long, it seemed like about ten minutes, five minutes. Initially, I was on my own with a lectern…

“The lady was behind me on the stairs and Usman [Khan] was on the other side of me with his knives. I was looking for something to defend myself with. There was nothing there apart from pictures on the walls.”

At this point, he picked up a lectern to try and fend off the attacker. He said they were shouting at each other and he asked: “What do you think you’re doing?” John went on: “He didn’t say much, the only thing I remember him saying was about the belt. He was waiting for the police before he blew it.”

Speaking about one of the two victims, Jack Merritt, who died during the terror attack, he said: “I had known Jack four or five years by then… over the years we had got really close.” He admitted the day still haunts him, “because people lost lives who shouldn’t have” and he thinks about it all of the time. On his life in prison, he added:

“I have done a lot of prison, in and out, as a petty criminal before I got locked up for a serious offence. But I’m sick of seeing people in jail wasting away who have amazing talent.”

On terrorists’ sentences, he said: “Whatever you have done right or wrongly, you should get a proportionate sentence to that. Maybe terrorist offences, because of the purpose behind it, should have extra added on to it?”

But he concluded after 15 years sentences stop being effective. He said: “If you’ve not learnt after 10 – 15 years you are not going to learn… they [the long sentences] just make people angry.”

Good Morning Britain, ITV from 6am

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