London Bridge terror attack: Victim’s girlfriend breaks down in tears at vigil

Leanne O'Brien, centre, the girlfriend of Jack Merritt, is comforted by family members during a vigil to honour both him and Saskia Jones (Picture: PA)
Leanne O'Brien, centre, is comforted by family members during a vigil to honour her boyfriend Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones (PA)

The girlfriend of a victim of the London Bridge terror attack has broken down in tears at a vigil in his memory.

Leanne O’Brien wept and clutched a cuddly toy while supported by family and friends at the event outside the Guildhall in Cambridge on Monday.

Her boyfriend, Jack Merritt, 25, and fellow former University of Cambridge graduate Saskia Jones, 23, died after being stabbed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, during a prisoner rehabilitation event in London on Friday.

Meanwhile, prime minister Boris Johnson and opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn paid their respects at a separate event in London’s Guildhall Yard, observing a minute's silence alongside members of the public.

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, prime minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn at the vigil in Guildhall Yard, London (Picture: PA)
Sadiq Khan, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn all attended the London vigil (PA)
People at a vigil in Guildhall Yard, London, to honour the victims off the London Bridge terror attack (Picture: PA)
People attend the vigil in London (PA)
The crowd at a vigil at the Guildhall in Cambridge to honour Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt after they were killed in Friday's London Bridge terror attack (Picture: PA)
The crowd at the vigil at the Guildhall in Cambridge (PA)
LONDON, ENGLAND - DECEMBER 02: (L-R) Prime Minister, Boris Johnson and Labour Leader, Jeremy Corbyn attend a vigil for victims Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23 of the London Bridge attack and to honour the public and emergency services who responded to the incident at the Guildhall Yard on December 2, 2019 in London England.  Usman Khan, a 28 year old former prisoner convicted of terrorism offences, killed two people in Fishmongers' Hall at the North end of London Bridge on Friday, November 29, before continuing his attack on the bridge. Mr Khan was restrained and disarmed by members of the public before being shot by armed police.  (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn at the vigil at Guildhall Yard, London (Getty)

Mayor of London Sadiq Khan told those gathered in the capital: "We come together this morning as Londoners to remember, to honour and to mourn the innocent lives lost as a result of this horrific terrorist attack on Friday.

"The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but by focusing on the values that bind us."

A vigil will be held for London Bridge attack victims Jack Merritt, left, and Saskia Jones (Pictures: PA)
London Bridge attack victims Jack Merritt, left, and Saskia Jones (PA)

The Queen has been among those to praise the brave actions of members of the public who tackled the terrorist on Friday.

Usman 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 a prisoner rehabilitation conference at Fishmongers’ Hall on Friday afternoon.

Forensic personnel searching for fingerprints at the cordoned off area on London Bridge in central London, after a terrorist wearing a fake suicide vest who went on a knife rampage killing two people, was shot dead by police on Friday. (Photo by Yui Mok/PA Images via Getty Images)
A forensic team on London Bridge in central London after the terrorist attack (PA/Getty)
Floral tributes and photographs of the first victim to be named, Jack Merritt, are pictured close to London Bridge in the City of London, on December 1, 2019, following the November 29 deadly terror incident. - Britain's Boris Johnson said on December 1 the security services were stepping up monitoring of convicted terrorists released early from prison, as the London Bridge attack became embroiled in the election campaign. (Photo by Ben STANSALL / AFP) (Photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images)
Floral tributes were left close to London Bridge after the attack (AFP/Getty)

The event was held by Learning Together, a programme associated with Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology.

It was reported that Khan had been a case study for the group and that he wrote a poem and thank-you note to the initiative for supporting him.

Khan had previously written that he wanted to be deradicalised and become a “good British citizen”.

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

The prime minister has vowed to take steps to ensure people are not released early when they commit serious offences.

But the family of Mr Merritt, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, asked for his death to not to be used to justify introducing "even more draconian sentences" on offenders, in a heartfelt tribute released on Sunday.

They said: "He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly.

"Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.


Why was the London Bridge terrorist released from prison?

Boris Johnson ignores family’s plea not to exploit victims' deaths

Timeline of recent terrorist attacks in UK

"We know Jack would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary."

And in a tweet on Sunday evening, Mr Merritt's father David said: "Don't use my son's death, and his and his colleague's photos – to promote your vile propaganda.

"Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance."

Former University of Cambridge student Jack Merritt was killed in the attack (Picture: PA)
Former University of Cambridge student Jack Merritt was killed in the attack (PA)

Ms Jones, a volunteer with Learning Together from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, was described as having a "great passion" for providing support to victims of crime by her family.

In a statement, they said: "She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be.

"Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate recruitment programme, wishing to specialise in victim support."

Saskia Jones was killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan (Picture: PA)
Saskia Jones was killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan (PA)
The attack on Friday was carried out by convicted terrorist Usman Khan (Picture: PA)
The attack on Friday was carried out by convicted terrorist Usman Khan (PA)

Khan, who was living in Stafford, had been given permission to travel into the heart of London by police and the probation service.

Convicted of terror offences in February 2012, he was released from prison on licence in December 2018, halfway through his 16-year prison sentence.

He launched the fatal attack at the Learning Together event just before 2pm on Friday.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, among them a murderer on day release, before he was shot dead by police.