University of Cambridge pays tribute to Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones after their deaths in London Bridge terror attack
The Institute of Criminology has paid tribute to its former students Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt, who were killed in the London Bridge terror attack.
In a statement, the director, Professor Loraine R Gelsthorpe, paid tribute to Saskia’s “warm disposition and extraordinary intellectual creativity” and to Jack’s “passion for social and criminal justice”.
Saskia, 23, from Stratford-upon-Avon, and Jack, 25, from Cottenham, were stabbed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, a guest at the Learning Together conference they were attending at Fishmongers’ Hall on the north side of London Bridge, on Friday (November 29).
Jack was course co-ordinator for Learning Together, a prison education initiative from the Institute of Criminology, through which students and prisoners learn side-by-side.
Prof Gelsthorpe said: “It is with great sadness that the Institute of Criminology acknowledges the deaths of both Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt who were killed in the course of events on and near London Bridge whilst participating in a Learning Together event organised by the institute.
“Saskia’s warm disposition and extraordinary intellectual creativity was combined with a strong belief that people who have committed criminal offences should have opportunities for rehabilitation. Though she completed her MPhil in criminology in 2018, her determination to make an enduring and positive impact on society in everything she did led her to stay in contact with the Learning Together community. They valued her contributions enormously and were inspired by her determination to push towards the good.
“All of us at the institute will miss Jack’s quiet humour and rigorous intellect. His determined belief in rehabilitation inspired him to join the Institute as a staff member to work in the Learning Together research team after completing his MPhil in criminology in 2017. Jack’s passion for social and criminal justice was infectious. He was deeply creatively and courageously engaged with the world, advocating for a politics of love. He worked tirelessly in dark places to pull towards the light.
“We are grateful to other members of the Learning Together community who bravely risked their own lives to hold off the attacker until the police arrived. These men included Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service staff and several people who have spent time in prison. They worked together selflessly to bring an end to this tragedy and to save further lives.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with their families, friends, and colleagues and students at the institute and university more widely who were at the event, as well as others who were there and who have been affected and injured.
“We would like to thank everyone for their messages of support.”
The university’s vice chancellor, Stephen J Toope, said: “I am devastated to learn that among the victims of the London Bridge attack were staff and alumni of the University of Cambridge, taking part in an event to mark five years of the Learning Together programme.
“What should have been a joyous opportunity to celebrate the achievements of this unique and socially transformative programme, hosted by our Institute of Criminology, was instead disrupted by an unspeakable criminal act.
“I am sad beyond words to report that course co-ordinator Jack Merritt and former student Saskia Jones were killed. Both were Cambridge graduates. Among the three people injured, whose identities have not been publicly released, is a member of university staff.
“Our university condemns this abhorrent and senseless act of terror.
“Our condolences, our thoughts and our deepest sympathies are with the victims and their families. We will be providing all the support we can to our colleagues, including counselling for staff and students who are affected by the event.
“We are grateful to the Metropolitan Police, to local emergency services, and to those members of the public – including students, staff, alumni and other participants at the event – who selflessly intervened to contain the incident.”
Jack was at Hughes Hall, Cambridge, while studying for his MPhil in criminology.
President Anthony Freeling said: “The whole student body at Hughes Hall, fellows, senior members and staff alike, have been left shocked and devastated by the senseless killing of a wonderful, caring and brilliant alumnus who has been taken from his friends, family and community. All of our thoughts go to them at this difficult time.
“Jack was the course co-ordinator of the Learning Together programme, taking part in an event to mark five years of the programme, hosted by the Institute of Criminology. He joined the programme having studied the MPhil in criminology at Hughes Hall in 2016-17. Those who knew him speak of an inspiring person of generous spirit, and a keen sportsman who participated fully in college life.
“One former fellow who didn’t know him has written to me to observe that ‘the only positive I can draw at this time is that Jack was at the forefront of a highly worthwhile real-world engagement of the utmost importance … a true exemplar of all that the college is seeking from its members. Little consolation right now, but a mighty role model’.
“An honorary fellow wrote: ‘Even those who did not know Jack Merritt will feel moved by the fact that he used the same library, joked with friends in the same dining hall and common rooms. If Hughes Hall were to be identified by keywords, they would surely include education, healing, law and society. Jack Merritt’s studies impelled him along a road signposted by all four.He obviously had so much to contribute’.”
Saskia studied for her MPhil in criminology while at Queens’ College, Cambridge. She matriculated in Michaelmas term 2017 and she graduated in November 2018.
Queens’ president John Eatwell said: “Our deepest sympathies lie with Saskia's family and friends, and with all those others who continue to suffer as a result of Friday's tragic events.”
More by this authorPaul Brackley