Victims of London Bridge attack lauded by their families

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LONDON, Dec 2, 2019 (BSS/AFP) – British police on Sunday named the two
victims who died in the London Bridge terror attack, as their families paid
glowing tributes to the pair.

Jack Merritt, 25, from Cambridgeshire in eastern England, and 23-year-old
Saskia Jones of Warwickshire in the West Midlands, were both killed by
convicted terrorist Usman Khan during his rampage Friday, the Metropolitan
Police said.

Merritt, a course coordinator at Cambridge University’s criminology
institute, and Jones, a volunteer, died as they helped host an event near
London Bridge to mark five years of a prisoner rehabilitation initiative.

Khan — a participant in the programme during some of his roughly eight
years of prior imprisonment for terrorism offences — showed up armed with
two knives and stabbed five people.

He was shot dead by police while wearing a fake explosives vest on London
Bridge.

One of those injured has been released from hospital while two are still
receiving treatment.

In a statement released through police, Merritt’s family paid tribute to
“our beautiful, talented boy” who they said had died “doing what he loved”.

“Jack was an intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic person who was looking
forward to building a future… and making a career helping people in the
criminal justice system,” they said.

Jones’s family described her as “a funny, kind, positive influence at the
centre of many people’s lives” who had recently applied for a police graduate
recruitment programme, hoping to specialise in a victim support role.

“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,” they added.

– ‘Rehabilitation, not revenge’ –

Khan had participated in Cambridge’s “Learning Together” initiative
promoting prison-based education while serving some of his sentence for
terrorism offences at Whitemoor prison in eastern England.

He was conditionally released from jail last December under so-called
licensing conditions after serving around half of his jail term.

That has caused a political storm in Britain, which is in the grip of
election campaigning ahead of voting on December 12.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson — whose Conservatives have been in power for
nearly a decade — is now vowing to end the practice and stiffen sentences.

But Merritt’s family sounded a cautionary note in reaction, saying their
son “believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge” and that “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,”
they added.

Cambridge University Vice-Chancellor Stephen Toope said in a statement he
was “devastated” at the events.

“What should have been a joyous opportunity to celebrate the achievements
of this unique and socially transformative programme, hosted by our Institute
of Criminology, was instead disrupted by an unspeakable criminal act,” he
added.

“Our University condemns this abhorrent and senseless act of terror.”

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