Girlfriend of London Bridge victim breaks down in tears at memorial

By PA Reporters

The girlfriend of London Bridge terror victim Jack Merritt broke down in tears as she attended a vigil in his memory in Cambridge on Monday.

Leanne O’Brien wept and clutched a cuddly toy as she was supported by family and friends at the event, which also honoured fellow Cambridge graduate Saskia Jones.

Mr Merritt, 25, and Miss Jones, 23, were both stabbed by 28-year-old convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event they were supporting in London on Friday.

The Cambridge vigil took place as Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn stood side-by-side to pay their respects at a separate event at Guildhall Yard in London, observing a minute’s silence alongside members of the public.

Leanne O’Brien is comforted by family and friends (Joe Giddens/PA)

The pair were joined by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, who called for people to come together following the killings and work for a future “not defined by hatred but defined by hope, unity and love”.

The vigils took place as West Midlands Police said a 34-year-old man arrested in Stoke-on-Trent on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts had been recalled to prison due to a breach of his licence conditions.

Sadiq Khan, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn stand together at a London vigil (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

He has been named in reports as Nazam Hussain, who was jailed with Usman in 2012 for terrorism offences, and like Usman had been released early on licence after successfully appealing against his original indeterminate sentence.

Officers from the West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit held him after a search of his home on Saturday.

The force has said there is no information to suggest he was involved in Khan’s attack at London Bridge.

Officers have been searching a home in Lindley Street, Stoke, on Monday as part of the West Midlands Counter Terrorism investigation.

A resident, who did not wish to be named, told the PA news agency: “I saw the man who lived there on the first day he arrived.

“He’s been there two months. He had a prison bag with him on the day he arrived and he met with two CID, so I knew it was something serious.

“The police have certainly been there since yesterday, possibly before.”

Jack Merritt and (right) Saskia Jones (Metropolitan Police/PA)

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

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

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

Mr Johnson 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.

“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.”

Miss 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.”

(PA Graphics)

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, 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, before he was shot dead by police.

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.

No-one else is being sought over the attack.