Cambridge staff pay tribute to London Bridge attack victims

Jack Merritt was a coordinator on university’s Learning Together programme, while Saskia Jones was a volunteer

十二月 1, 2019
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones
Source: Metropolitan Police
Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones

Staff at the University of Cambridge have paid tribute to Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, who were killed in the terrorist attack at an event organised by its Institute of Criminology.

Mr Merritt, 25, was a coordinator in Cambridge’s Learning Together programme, a prisoner rehabilitation initiative in which students and convicts learn alongside each other. Ms Jones, 23, was a volunteer on the scheme. Both were Cambridge graduates.

The pair were stabbed by Usman Khan, who was speaking at the event in Fishmongers’ Hall on 29 November to celebrate the fifth anniversary of the Learning together programme.

Among the three people injured is a member of university staff, said Stephen Toope, Cambridge’s vice-chancellor.

Khan, who was released from prison last December after being convicted of terrorism offences in 2012, was confronted by staff at the building and conference attendees and forced outside the building. Khan, who was wearing a hoax explosive device, was shot dead by police on London Bridge soon afterwards.

Professor Toope said that he was “devastated” to learn that the victims included “staff and alumni of the University of Cambridge, taking part in an event to mark five years of the Learning Together programme”.

“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 said.

Loraine Gelsthorpe, director of the Institute of Criminology, paid tribute to Mr Merritt’s “quiet humour and rigorous intellect”.

“His determined belief in rehabilitation inspired him to join the institute as a staff member to work in the Learning Together research team after completing his MPhil in criminology in 2017,” Professor Gelsthorpe said.

“Jack’s passion for social and criminal justice was infectious. He was deeply creatively and courageously engaged with the world, advocating for a politics of love. He worked tirelessly in dark places to pull towards the light.”

Mr Merritt’s family said that he “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”.

Professor Gelsthorpe also recalled Ms Jones’ “warm disposition and extraordinary intellectual creativity”, which she said was “combined with a strong belief that people who have committed criminal offences should have opportunities for rehabilitation”.

“Though she completed her MPhil in criminology in 2018, her determination to make an enduring and positive impact on society in everything she did led her to stay in contact with the Learning Together community. They valued her contributions enormously and were inspired by her determination to push towards the good,” Professor Gelsthorpe said.

Professor Gelsthorpe added: “We are grateful to other members of the Learning Together community who bravely risked their own lives to hold off the attacker until the police arrived. These men included Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service staff and several people who have spent time in prison. They worked together selflessly to bring an end to this tragedy and to save further lives.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends, and colleagues and students at the institute and university more widely who were at the event, as well as others who were there and who have been affected and injured.”

Professor Toope said: “Our university condemns this abhorrent and senseless act of terror. Our condolences, our thoughts and our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families. We will be providing all the support we can to our colleagues, including counselling for staff and students who are affected by the event.

“We are grateful to the Metropolitan Police, to local emergency services, and to those members of the public – including students, staff, alumni and other participants at the event – who selflessly intervened to contain the incident.”

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