Cambridge graduates Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones tried to make the world a better place
University of Cambridge graduates Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt had a passion to change the world for the better, an inquest into their deaths heard.
During their inquests, coroner Mark Lucraft QC paid tribute to the victims, saying their lives “enriched those around them” and “demonstrated a profound commitment to society”.
Ms Jones, 23, from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, had aspirations to be a police officer and sometimes attended events organised by the university's Learning Together programme as a supporter.
In a statement, her devastated mother Michelle, two uncles and aunt told of her “private nature” as they outlined a legacy that went beyond Learning Together.
The family said: “She should be defined as someone who battled to improve the lives of others in several spheres and was driven to make real changes in the world.
“Her incredible research in the field of sexual violence with Rape Crisis Cambridge more than shapes part of that legacy.
“Her passion in this area enabled her to finally find her career path, with the hope of becoming a detective in victim support within the police force.
“The positive impact Saskia had on so many people in challenging situations provided a valley of light for them to seek hope and a way forward.”
Ms Jones's mother also told how her daughter had been in two minds about going to Fishmongers’ Hall.
Even though she had not met Usman Khan before, Ms Jones was pictured at the event chatting with him at a table shortly before he launched his attack.
Ms Jones collapsed on the stairs after Khan stabbed her once in the neck, having already fatally injured Mr Merritt when he chanced upon him in the men's toilets as he made final preparations.
Mr Merritt, 25, of Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, was employed by Cambridge University to work on the Learning Together programme and had dealt with Khan before.
His mother Anne Merritt told the inquest: “Jack was a force for good in the world, someone who made other people's lives better for knowing him.
“We are hugely proud of who Jack was and what he stood for.
“His death was a tragedy but his life was a triumph.”
Mr Merritt's girlfriend Leanne O’Brien told how Jack had fitted “perfectly into my life and was my biggest support and number one fan”.
She said: “He always got me through the really tough times when I really didn't believe I could myself.
“He made me feel it was possible to achieve anything and everything. I'll miss the skip in your step and your huge famous Jack Merritt smile, that somehow produced these creases and dimples all over your face.”
A host of other family and friends also gave tributes to Mr Merritt, including former students from both Manchester and Cambridge universities.
They described him as a “true visionary”, a “very cool brother” and a “fiercely loyal” friend who “championed the underdog".
Among those who attended Mr Merritt’s funeral in Cambridge were rock star Nick Cave, who performed a song, and ex-offender John Crilly, who had tackled Khan with a fire extinguisher.