The mother of a Cambridge University graduate stabbed to death by a convicted terrorist who was attending a prisoner rehabilitation workshop has paid tribute to her son at an inquest in London.
Her voice breaking, Anne Merritt said of her son Jack: "His death was a tragedy but his life was a triumph."
Usman Khan, who was freed from prison in 2018, fatally injured Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, before being shot dead by police officers.
The inquest heard on Monday, 12 April, that after stabbing the pair Khan, 28, was forced to the floor and disarmed by members of the public and then shot dead by police.
The coroner, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, said Usman Khan began stabbing people inside the Fishmongers’ Hall at the north end of London Bridge during a Learning Together workshop session on a Friday afternoon.
Two other women - Isabel Rowbotham and Stephanie Szczotko - survived their injuries.
The inquest, which is expected to hear evidence about why Khan was not seen as a security risk when he was invited to the workshop in central London, is expected to last nine weeks.
Terrorist 'knifed Cambridge graduates to death at rehabilitation event' https://t.co/wR5ReZtGAV— CourtNewsUK (@CourtNewsUK) April 12, 2021
On Monday, 12 April, Judge Lucraft explained to the jury what options were open to them when recording their verdict.
Khan, 28, was confronted by John Crilly, a former prisoner, and several other men who pursued him of the Fishmongers' Hall venue armed only with a fire extinguisher and a narwhal’s tusk which had been yanked off the wall.
The attacker was wearing a fake suicide vest but Mr Crilly has said he called his bluff and told him to detonate it.
Difficult weeks ahead as we support HHJ Mark Lucraft in his inquest into the Fishmongers Hall tragedy. This is a tough time for so many but especially for the families of Saskia & Jack & my thoughts are with them and everyone for whom that day represents deep trauma & sadness. pic.twitter.com/LL1QHoMRkZ— Ruth Armstrong (@cambridgecrim) April 11, 2021
Khan was born and raised in Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands and was arrested in 2010 with eight others, all of whom sympathised with al-Qaeda.
The nine were plotting to place a pipe bomb in the London Stock Exchange.
The inquest into fishmongers hall starts tomorrow. I’m going to switch off from the world for a bit. This is a photo of Jack I took when we were kids - 16 - because there’s nothing I wouldn’t give to be living carelessly with him again, young, free & adoring every moment. My boy. pic.twitter.com/2zGXmBYIRA— Hollie Saunders 🌻 (@Holliejsaunders) April 11, 2021
Khan was jailed for a minimum of eight years after admitting preparing terrorist acts but in December 2018 he was released from prison and sent to live in Stafford.
He took part in a government "desistance and disengagement programme" but did not reveal that he still harboured jihadist thoughts.
Jack Merritt was a course coordinator for Learning Together, a programme run by Cambridge University's Institute of Criminology, and Saskia Jones, who was also attending the event, had applied to become a police officer.
For the sake of some people I love and respect very much, please give this a read.— Kirsty Borthwick (@kirstyborthwick) April 11, 2021
And please do pray for the inquest about to start into the events at Fishmongers Hall in November 2019. Especially for all those for whom this will be a vulnerable and traumatic couple of months. https://t.co/nJRUFQwabQ
The inquest heard pen portraits of both victims on Monday.
In a statement the family of Saskia Jones said: "She was about so much more than just Learning Together. She should be defined as someone who was driven to change the world."
They said she had done some "incredible research" on sexual violence and hoped to become a detective helping investigate and support sexual assault victims.
Sarah, the landlady of The Punter pub in Cambridge, said Jack Merritt called it his second home and she said: "After his death his friends appeared, on bicycles and by taxi, streaming in. This glorious bunch of young people, clinging together in such sadness."
She added: "He was destined to do great things...and had a sound moral compass."
Khan's death will be subject to a separate inquest later in the year.
*al Qaeda is a terrorist group banned in Russia