Tearful mother of Fishmongers’ Hall terror victim tells inquest her son was ‘force for good in the world’

Tristan Kirk
·4-min read
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones

The mother of a Cambridge University graduate killed in the Fishmongers’ Hall terror attack tearfully hailed her son as a “force for good in the world” as the inquest into his death began today.

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were both stabbed to death by Usman Khan at a prisoner rehabilitation event in the City of London on November 29 2019.

Khan, who was wearing a fake suicide vest and armed himself with two knives, carried out the attacks at the historic Fishmongers’ Hall, before he was tackled by members of the public on nearby London Bridge and then shot dead by armed police.

This morning Anne Merritt read out tributes and memories from her son’s friends and family, as the inquest into his and Ms Jones’ deaths was formally opened by Coroner Mark Lucraft QC.

“Jack Merritt was a good person, he was a force of good in the world. Someone who made other people’s lives better for knowing him”, she said.

Struggling to contain her emotions, she said: “We are hugely proud of who Jack was and what he stood for. His death was a tragedy but his life was a triumph.”

In the statement, Mr Merrit’s girlfriend Leanne O’Brien said they were “inseparable”, telling the hearing: “He made me feel it was possible to achieve anything and everything. I will miss the skip in your step and the hugely famous Jack Merritt smile.”

Sarah, the landlady of his local pub in Cambridge, described an outpouring of grief from friends when news of his untimely death began to break.

PA
PA

“They were clenched together in such desperate sadness”, she said. “This man was bloody clever, he had full ownership of a sound moral compass and an intellectual mind to challenge the norms.”

Ms Jones, from Stratford-upon-Avon, was studying criminology and psychology at the time of her death and had aspirations of becoming a police officer. During her time at Cambridge University she had been involved in the Learning Together programme, which aimed to help the rehabilitation of prisoners.

Mr Merritt was a course coordinator for the Learning Together programme, and university friends said he was “angry” and “frustrated” with the inequality he saw in the world, saying he was “selfless in his dedication to making things right in every second of his life”.

“The world has lost one of its true visionaries”, they added.

Jones family
Jones family

The family of Ms Jones told the court they had decided not to present pen portraits as it would “fly in the face of Saskia’s private nature”, and they wanted the focus to be investigating the deaths.

“It would be her hope that no other family is devastated and heartbroken again in similar circumstances”, they said. “

“It is very important to the family that Saskia’s legacy should not solely be based on her work with ‘Learning Together’ as she was about so much more than just that. She should be defined as someone who battled to improve the lives of others in several spheres and was driven to make real changes in the world.

“Her incredible research in the field of sexual violence with Rape Crisis, Cambridge more than shapes part of that legacy. Her passion in this area enabled her to finally find her career path with the hope of becoming a Detective in Victim Support within the Police Force.

PA
PA

“The positive impact Saskia had on so many people in challenging situations provided a valley of light for them to seek hope and a way forward.”

The hearing was told Mr Merritt had previously been in contacted with Khan through his work with the Learning Together programme, and was accustomed to going into prisons.

Khan, 28, had been jailed in 2012 for being part of a terror cell which plotted an attack on the London Stock Exchange, but had been freed on licence at the time of the Fishmongers Hall attack.

The inquest is expected to hear evidence from witnesses to the fatal stabbings and the death of Khan, as well as from those who attended the rehabilitation event that day.

Khan was tackled by members of the public armed with makeshift weapons including a narwhal tusk and a decorative pike, before the eventual intervention by police.

There will also be evidence on the anti-terrorism monitoring of Khan after he was released from prison, and how he was permitted to attend Fishmongers Hall on the day of the stabbings.

In the initial evidence, Detective Chief Inspector Dan Brown showed a series of photos of the event, featuring Khan at a brunch event and sitting on the same table as Ms Jones.

The inquest continues.

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