Britons pay tribute to victims of London Bridge attack

Vigils held for Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones who were killed by man released early from prison on ‘terrorism’ charges.

London Bridge attack vigil
Members of the public attend a vigil at the Guildhall in central London to pay tribute to the victims of the London Bridge attack on December 2, 2019 [Daniel Leal-Olivas/AFP]

Britons attended vigils for the two victims of an attack in central London on Friday that saw a man, who was recently released from jail in a “terrorism” case, stab several people.

Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones died after 28-year-old Usman Khan, wearing a fake suicide vest, launched a knife attack during a conference at Fishmongers‘ Hall, before being shot dead by police on London Bridge.

The event on prisoner rehabilitation, attended by all three, was run by academics at the University of Cambridge’s criminology institute.

Merritt, 25, was an advocate for prison reform, while Jones, 23, worked with inmates as a volunteer and was applying to be a police officer.

The victims were remembered on Monday in services at Guildhall Yard in the City of London and outside the Guildhall in Cambridge, the city where both had studied.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, leader of the main opposition Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and Sadiq Khan, the London mayor, attended the event in the capital. 

“The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another, but it’s by focussing on the values that bind us, to take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and our emergency services who ran towards danger, risking their lives to help people they didn’t even know,” said Khan.

Sarah Mullally, bishop of London, said: “We stand in silence once more following the atrocity on London Bridge last Friday. We remember those who died and those who were injured, all those who have been affected in any way. Academics celebrating rehabilitation and finding only danger. Workers at Fishmongers’ Hall and elsewhere offering hospitality, but discovering they needed to get protection.”

In a statement, the Jones family said: “Saskia was a funny, kind, positive influence at the centre of many people’s lives. She had a wonderful sense of mischievous fun and was generous to the point of always wanting to see the best in all people.”

Tributes poured in as further details about the attack were revealed and as a debate over Britain’s criminal justice system intensified.

Khan was released from jail early, in December 2018, having been convicted in 2012 for planning to bomb the London Stock Exchange with two other men.

Following Friday’s attack, the prime minister has promised a tougher stance on the release of prisoners if his ruling Conservative Party wins the general election on December 12.

But David Merritt, Jack Merritt’s father, has appealed to Johnson, warning him against using his son’s death to promote his agenda.

On Sunday, David Merritt tweeted, “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”, above an image right-wing newspaper headlines about Johnson’s comments.

Earlier, the Merritt family issued a statement: “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.”

Meanwhile, two victims remain in hospital after sustaining injuries in the attack as another returned home. 

Several bystanders intervened in the violence, including a Polish man known only as Lukasz – who was also stabbed. He has since been released from the hospital. 

Zbigniew Ziobro, Poland’s justice minister, is expected to request a bravery honour for Lukasz from the Polish president, according to Ziobro’s spokesman.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies