Wednesday 11 December 2019

Family of London stab victim warns Johnson against knee-jerk reaction

Much-loved: The families of Saskia Jones (pictured) and Jack Merritt paid tribute to the two Cambridge alumni
Much-loved: The families of Saskia Jones (pictured) and Jack Merritt paid tribute to the two Cambridge alumni
Jack Merritt

Martin Doyle

The family of one of the London Bridge stabbing victims has urged Boris Johnson not to punish other offenders by refusing the early release that had been granted to terrorist Usman Khan.

Police confirmed the two victims of Khan's stabbing spree had been helping at the prisoner rehabilitation conference which the convicted terrorist had been attending.

The second victim was named yesterday as former University of Cambridge student Saskia Jones.

The 23-year-old's family paid tribute to her "funny, kind, positive influence". She and fellow Cambridge alumni 25-year-old Jack Merritt were fatally stabbed by Khan on Friday afternoon.

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Khan (28) was released early from prison in 2018 on licence and was wearing an electronic monitoring tag when he attended the conference on prisoner rehabilitation, hosted by Cambridge University scheme Learning Together, near London Bridge.

The attack left three other people injured, one of whom is a member of staff, said the university's vice-chancellor Stephen Toope.

Ms Jones, of Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, attended the programme as a volunteer, while Mr Merritt was there as a co-coordinator.

Mr Merritt's family called the 25-year-old a "beautiful, talented boy" in a statement, saying he died "doing what he loved".

"He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly," they said.

But they asked for his death not to be used to justify introducing "even more draconian sentences" on offenders, after Boris Johnson vowed to take steps to ensure people are not released early when they commit serious offences.

The statement continued: "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."

A statement from Ms Jones's 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.

"Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate recruitment programme, wishing to specialise in victim support.

"This is an extremely painful time for the family. Saskia will leave a huge void in our lives."

Khan, who was living in Stafford, north of Birmingham, had been given permission to travel into London by police and the probation service.

Armed with two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, Khan was tackled by members of the public, including ex-­offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police on London Bridge.

The 28-year-old was part of an al-Qa'ida-inspired terror group and was convicted of terror offences in 2012.

He was released automatically halfway through the sentence.

Irish Independent

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