The first victim of the knife attack on London Bridge has been named as 25-year-old Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt.
Merritt, who had an MA in criminology from Cambridge university, graduated in 2017, and previously studied law at Manchester University. He wrote his dissertation on the overrepresentation of young Black, Asian and minority ethnic males in the British prison system was described by his father as someone who always “took the side of the underdog”.
He was one of two people killed when convicted terrorist Usman Khan went on a knife rampage while wearing a hoax explosive device on Friday, November 29. A woman who died in the attack has not yet been named. Three others were injured
His father, David Merritt, tweeted and then deleted a moving tribute. “My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily,” he wrote.
“R.I.P. Jack: you were a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog.”
In a second tweet, he continued: “Cambridge lost a proud son and a champion for underdogs everywhere, but especially those dealt a losing hand by life, who ended up in the prison system.”
Merritt worked as a co-ordinator for Learning Together, which is run by Cambridge university’s Institute of Criminology.
Learning Together were holding a five-year anniversary conference at Fishmongers’ Hall, which the attacker is believed to have attended.
Audrey Ludwig, a director of Suffolk Law Centre who got to know Merritt over the past year, said he had “a deep commitment to prisoner education and rehabilitation”.
Law lecturer Serena Wright offered her condolences to Merritt’s friends and family on Twitter. She wrote: “I knew your son through Learning Together & I loved him to pieces —he was the sweetest, most caring and selfless individual I’ve ever met. The warmest heart, always with time for anyone. Completely irreplaceable — I will mourn his loss greatly and honour his memory.”
In a statement released before any victims were named, Cambridge university’s vice-chancellor Stephen J Toope said: “We mourn for the dead and we hope for a speedy recovery for the injured. Our thoughts are with all their families and friends.”
Khan, who was released from prison a year ago on licence, was still wearing an electronic tag at the time of the attack, but questions have been raised about how effectively he was being monitored since his release.
Khan was jailed in 2012 for his role in a failed attempt to bomb the London Stock Exchange and plotting to set up a terrorist training camp.
He was originally handed an indeterminate sentence, which means he would not have been released until he was no longer deemed to be a risk to the public.
In 2013 the Court of Appeal quashed the sentence, replacing it with a 16-year fixed-term. Having served minimum 8 years, he was automatically released on licence without the involvement of the parole board.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has vowed to “toughen up sentences” in response to the incident. “I’ve said for a long time now, that I think the practice of automatic, early release where we cut a sentence in half and let really serious and violent offenders out early, simply isn’t working,” he said.
“And I think you’ve had some very good evidence of how that isn’t working, I’m afraid, with this case.”