London Bridge victims aspired to careers in reforming criminal justice system

By Emma Bowden, Jess Glass and Mike Bedigan, PA

Two young people killed during the London Bridge terror attack were looking forward to pursuing careers in reforming the criminal justice system, their families have said.

Saskia Jones, 23, and Jack Merritt, 25, who both received an MPhil in Criminology from the University of Cambridge, were named as victims by the Metropolitan Police.

The ex-students were fatally stabbed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan as they attended an event held by Learning Together, a programme associated with the university’s Institute of Criminology, at Fishmongers’ Hall near London Bridge.

Khan, 28, was on licence and wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he launched the violent attack, which injured three others, after he was invited to the prisoner rehabilitation conference on Friday afternoon.

Miss Jones, a volunteer with the scheme 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 (Met Police/PA

The 23-year-old ‘s family, who are being supported by family liaison officers from the Metropolitan Police, said her death “will leave a huge void in our lives”.

Mr Merritt’s family said the 25-year-old, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, died “doing what he loved” and had been looking forward to pursuing a career helping people in the criminal justice system and building a future with girlfriend Leanne.

Jack Merritt (Met Police/PA)

“He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly,” the statement said.

But they asked for his death not to be used to justify introducing “even more draconian sentences” on offenders, after Boris Johnson vowed to take steps to ensure people are not released early when they commit serious offences.

The family statement continued: “Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.

“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.”

Floral tributes left at London Bridge (Yui Mok/PA)

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

Mr Johnson told BBC One’s The Andrew Marr Show that the other individuals were now “being properly invigilated to make sure there is no threat” and called the convicted terrorist’s release from prison “repulsive”.

Khan, who was living in Stafford, was 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 – half-way through his 16-year prison sentence.

Khan was released from prison on licence in December 2018 (BBC News/PA)

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

No-one else is being sought over the attack.

Footage posted online shows Khan being taken to the ground as one man sprays him with a fire extinguisher and another lunges towards him with a narwhal tusk believed to have been taken from the wall inside the building.

On Sunday, West Midlands Police said they had arrested a 34-year-old man in Stoke-on-Trent following the wider review of existing licence conditions of convicted terrorism offenders.

Mr Johnson pictured during a visit to the scene (Steve Parsons/PA)

Officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit arrested the man on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts after a search of the 34-year-old’s home address on Saturday.

Staffordshire Police Deputy Chief Constable Nick Baker said two properties continued to be searched in the county.

The force has said that there is no information to suggest that the arrested man was involved in the incident at London Bridge.

One of the three people injured in the attack has been allowed to return home while the other two remain in a stable condition in hospital, Met Police said.