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5th Jul, 2022

Victims paid tribute in London terror attack inquest

Catherine Thompson 14th Apr, 2021 Updated: 14th Apr, 2021

THE INQUEST has been launched into the deaths of Stratford woman Saskia Jones and Jack Merritt following an attack near London Bridge in November 2019.

Saskia and 25-year-old Jack were both stabbed to death during a conference at Fishmongers Hall, for ‘Learning Together’ – an education programme for prisoners which they were involved in. Both were graduates of the University of Cambridge.

Two other people were seriously injured in the attack which saw 28-year-old suspect Usman Khan shot dead by police after he was tackled by conference attendees with a decorative pike, narwhal tusk and fire extinguisher.

He had been released from jail on licence in 2018, half way through a 16-year sentence for terrorism offences.

Jack was employed by the University of Cambridge on its Learning Together programme, for which 23-year-old Saskia, a former criminology student, who had also attended Anglia Ruskin University, was a volunteer.

The two victims were paid moving tributes during the jury inquest which opened on Monday (April 12), before coroner Mark Lucraft QC.

Saskia’s family decided against providing a more detailed portrait, honouring what they felt would be her wish for a thorough investigation, so ‘no other family is devastated and heartbroken again in similar circumstances’.

Although, Saskia was described as ‘driven to make real changes in the world’.

On behalf of the family, barrister Henry Pitchers QC, read: “It’s very important to the family that Saskia’s legacy should not solely be based on her work with Learning Together, as she was about so much more than just that. 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.”

Fellow Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt was described as ‘immensely loyal’ and ‘deeply caring’ in tributes collected and read aloud by his mother Anne Merritt.

Former employer Sarah was among those who paid tribute: “It has been the saddest and most traumatic few days that we have ever known at The Punter. Jack worked here for a short time but, more importantly, has been part of a friendship group that has called this place their second home for some years, so when the terrible news travelled of Jack’s death, the friends appeared, on foot, on bike, jumping from cabs, streaming in. This glorious bunch of young people that I have been lazily telling off for years clung together in such desperate sadness. The love for this young man, the admiration, the shared humour, the sense of a combined grief was overwhelming.”

And Jack’s former primary school Joanna teacher fondly remembered him from his schooling days: “You think as a teacher that you will love all the children you teach. You don’t. You think that you will remember them all and you don’t. But I loved Jack and I remembered him. When I heard the news of his death, the first thing I did was send a message to my colleague saying ’please, please tell me that’s not our lovely Jack’.

“At the end of summer term, celebrating the end of primary school, the children were listening to ’Hey Ya! by Outkast and everyone was crying and singing. Jack suddenly jumped on to a table to dance and everyone followed suit, all the crying forgotten. That was the thing about Jack: I am sure he had his flaws, as we all do, but what I admired so much about him was that he just didn’t care what anyone thought of him, and yet simultaneously he cared so very, very deeply about others. It’s a rare but irresistible combination that hardly any of us achieve, and especially not from a young age. He did.”

The inquest continues.

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