LONDON, United Kingdom (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 program during some of his roughly eight years of prior imprisonment for terrorism offenses — 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 the 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 center of many people’s lives” who had recently applied for a police graduate recruitment program, hoping to specialize 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 sentences for terrorism offenses 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 program, 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.”
© Agence France-Presse