An inspirational message has been written by the grief-stricken girlfriend of a Cambridge graduate killed in the London Bridge terrorist attack.
Just hours after breaking down at a vigil for Jack Merritt, Leanne O’Brien penned the note of hope on Facebook. She said: “My love, you are phenomenal and have opened so many doors for those that society turned their backs on. Together, we will make a difference.”
Mr Merritt, 25, and fellow University of Cambridge graduate Saskia Jones, 23, were stabbed to death when convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, launched his rampage at Fishmongers’ Hall. The victims were murdered by an extremist they were trying to help after he was released from prison on licence in December last year.
It has emerged that Mr Merritt was reportedly the first person to confront Khan – who was armed with two kitchen knives and a fake suicide vest – when the attack began just before 2pm on Friday.
Mr Merritt, from Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, was a course coordinator with Learning Together, a prison rehabilitation programme associated with Cambridge’s Institute of Criminology.
Miss Jones, from Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, was a volunteer with the programme, which was holding a conference at the hall on the north side of the bridge in central London. Khan was invited to attend the event after being helped by the programme in prison and while on licence living in Stafford.
In her Facebook post, Miss O’Brien expressed support for the scheme – which brings together offenders and students “to study alongside each other” – using the hashtag #learningtogether.
She wept and clutched a cuddly toy as she was supported by family and friends at a vigil in Cambridge on Monday morning.
Meanwhile, Mr Merritt’s father, David, has written a column paying tribute to his son, describing him as “absorbingly intelligent”, “fiercely loyal” and “devilishly handsome”.
The heartbroken dad told how his son was angry because he felt society was failing people in need and also “frustrated because the political elite have forgotten why it is important to be fair”.
Mr Merritt wrote in Tuesday’s Guardian: “Unlike many of us, Jack did not just go to work. He lived and breathed fire in his pursuit of a better world for all humanity, particularly those most in need.”
The dad has said that Jack would be “livid” that his death is being used to further an “agenda of hate”.
He wrote: “He would be seething at his death, and his life, being used to perpetuate an agenda of hate that he gave his everything fighting against. We should never forget that. What Jack would want from this is for all of us to walk through the door he has booted down, in his black Doc Martens.
“Borrow his intelligence, share his drive, feel his passion, burn with his anger, and extinguish hatred with his kindness. Never give up his fight.”
Mr Merritt Snr hit out at indeterminate sentences, “joint enterprise” convictions and government cuts to prison budgets and public services. He called for the justice system to focus on rehabilitation.