In London, residents and officials gathered for a vigil today to mourn the deaths of two former Cambridge students who were killed in a stabbing on London Bridge Friday in what is being called a terror attack. The two victims were 23-year-old Saskia Jones and 25-year-old Jack Merritt. Both had worked at the prison-based education project Learning Together, and they had gathered to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the program at Fishmongers’ Hall when the attack began. This is London Mayor Sadiq Khan speaking at a memorial service today.
Mayor Sadiq Khan: “The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another, but it’s by focusing on the values that bind us, to take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and our emergency services, who ran towards danger, risking their lives to help people they didn’t even know. And it’s also by drawing inspiration from the lives of Jack and Saskia, who from an early age chose to dedicate themselves to helping others.”
The attacker, Usman Khan, was convicted on terrorism-related charges in 2012 and had been released from prison last year. He was shot and killed by police after a Polish chef fought the attacker, despite being repeatedly stabbed himself, in order to allow other civilians time to escape. The attack has immediately become a major issue in the British elections set for December 12 — 10 days from now. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has called for longer prison sentences and is trying to blame the Labour Party for laws that allowed Usman Khan to be released from prison. But family members of the attack’s victims say they do not want their deaths politicized. Jack Merritt’s father wrote on Twitter, “My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily.” Earlier this year, Jack Merritt spoke to the BBC about his work to help prisoners study law inside the Warren Hill prison in Suffolk.
Jack Merritt: “Our students in prison often have a very first-hand, very real, but also very nuanced idea of how the law works. And also, they have a very good sense of where there is a lack in information, where there is a lack in knowledge, and they really do know which areas of the law could do with clarification. And a lot of the time these are areas that they have seen people go through the prison system not understanding, and they want to do research which will help people.”