London Bridge attack: girlfriend praises ‘phenomenal’ Jack Merritt

The girlfriend of Jack Merritt, killed in the London Bridge terror attack, has paid an emotional tribute to the “phenomenal” Cambridge graduate. Leanne O’Brien, who was comforted by family members as she wept during a vigil for Merritt in Cambridge on Monday, said her boyfriend had “opened so many doors for those that society turned…

The girlfriend of Jack Merritt, killed in the London Bridge terror attack, has paid an emotional tribute to the “phenomenal” Cambridge graduate.

Leanne O’Brien, who was comforted by family members as she wept during a vigil for Merritt in Cambridge on Monday, said her boyfriend had “opened so many doors for those that society turned their backs on”.

Her tribute came after Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, both Cambridge graduates, were stabbed to death by the convicted terrorist Usman Khan during a prisoner rehabilitation event they were supporting at London’s Fishmonger’s Hall on Friday. Khan had been released early from prison last year on licence.

It comes after political leaders and criminal justice campaigners accused Boris Johnson of trying to politicise the terrorist attack.

O’Brien posted a link on her Facebook page on Monday evening to a piece written by Jack’s father, Dave, for the Guardian in which he said his son would be livid the terror attack was being used to perpetuate an “agenda of hate”. Sharing the article, O’Brien said: “My love, you are phenomenal and have opened so many doors for those that society turned their backs on. Together, we will make a difference #learningtogether.”

The post prompted an outpouring of sympathy from her friends, who responded with messages of support.

Dave Merritt wrote in the Guardian that the death of his son, who worked as a coordinator for the Learning Together prison rehabilitation and education programme, run by the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology, was being used to reinforce the worldview his son had fought against.

“Unlike many of us, Jack did not just go to work. He lived and breathed fire in his pursuit of a better world for all humanity, particularly those most in need,” he wrote.

“If Jack could comment on his death – and the tragic incident on Friday 29 November – he would be livid. We would see him ticking it over in his mind before a word was uttered between us. Jack would understand the political timing with visceral clarity.”

The family of Saskia Jones, also a volunteer on the programme, praised her for having a “great passion” for supporting victims of crime. “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,” a family statement said.

Johnson, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, attended a vigil on Monday in memory of the victims at Guildhall Yard, near the scene of the attack in central London.

Khan, who had been living in Stafford, was given permission to travel to London by the police and probation service. He was wearing a fake suicide vest and was shot dead by police on London Bridge after he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-prisoners from the conference.

The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, said on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “I sympathise with the anguish of the family and can’t imagine what they must be going through. The first duty that we’ve got as a government is to take every measure we can to make sure that we don’t see further families going through that same suffering and anguish.

“Our duty is to protect the public and that’s why, and you mentioned prison places, our manifesto is clear, we don’t want to cut those, we want to increase them by 10,000. Of course, we want to reform and rehabilitate criminal offenders where that’s possible but I think, in this case and in the level of very serious dangerous, criminal offenders, it’s clear that some of those we will struggle to be sure that we can reform, that they will rehabilitate. We are absolutely clear, we will not allow the release of people on to the streets who present a danger.”

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