Families grieve on the aftermath of the London Bridge terror attack

BY KATE DENNETT, JESSIE MATHEWSON and TOBY PORTER
toby@slpmedia.co.uk

The victims of the London Bridge terror attacks were honoured at a vigil on Monday.

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan on Friday.

The jihadi attacker began his lethal knife assault at Fishmongers’ Hall, beside London Bridge, during a prisoner rehabilitation conference.

Mr Merritt and Ms Jones, both Cambridge University graduates, were among academics, charity workers and former offenders attending the Learning Together event.

Their attacker was later shot dead by police on London Bridge after members of the public stopped and disarmed him.

Yesterday, hundreds of people gathered outside the City of London’s Guildhall and in Cambridge to remember the two young people who lost their lives.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Mayor of London Sadiq Khan were among those at the vigil in the capital.

(left to right) Mayor of London Sadiq Khan, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn take part in a vigil in Guildhall Yard, London, to honour the victims off the London Bridge terror attack, as well as the members of the public and emergency services who risked their lives to help others.

Christian and Muslim faith leaders brought the crowd together in a two-minute silence to commemorate the victims of the attack.

Speaking at the vigil, the Mayor of London honoured “the innocent lives lost as a result of the horrific terrorist attack this Friday”.

He said: “The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but by focusing on the values that bind us.

“To take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and emergency services who ran towards danger, risking their lives to help people they didn’t even know.

“And it’s also by drawing inspiration from the lives of Jack and Saskia, who from an early age chose to dedicate themselves to helping others.

“So we come together this morning in condolences but also in a spirit of defiance, to say that London will never be cowed or intimidated by terrorism.

“And also to commit to honouring the memory of Saskia and Jack by dedicating our future to one defined not by hatred but one defined by hope, by unity, and by love.”

Police said the attacker was attending an event, called “Learning Together” and some of those present at that event confronted the attacker to try and stop him.

The attacker then left the building and ended up on London Bridge, he was pursued and detained by members of the public, as well as a British Transport Police officer who was in plain clothes, before armed officers from both the City of London and Metropolitan Police arrived, confronted the attacker and shot him.

One of the three further people injured in the London Bridge incident has now been able to return home. Two people remain in a stable condition and continue to receive expert care in hospital.

Jack Merritt’s mother Anne (far left), girlfriend Leanne O’Brien (centre) and father David (second right) during a vigil at the Guildhall in Cambridge to honour both him and Saskia Jones after the two of them were killed in Friday’s London Bridge terror attack.

The public have shared nearly 500 images and videos with the investigation team so far.

A Parkeray HQ worker said: “We were told to keep away from the windows and then the police escorted us out the building. We were told not to come back at all today or go to the stations.

“When we left, they had moved the man from the bridge to the side next to William Street station. They were attending to the man and then they just stopped. The body had a white sheet over it.”

23 King William Street went into lockdown for around an hour from 2pm until the workers were evacuated just before 3pm.

The workers went to All Bar One opposite Cannon Street station as they were told to avoid train stations by police.

Full-time Itsu worker Vilma Varbiro, 20, said: “People were running away from the bridge very quickly. I did not know what was happening. It was scary and everyone was running – saving themselves.

We closed the shop and the police sent us away. We had to turn off everything and immediately leave.

“The manager is the only person the police are allowing back as we have to turn everything off because it isn’t safe for the building if it is all left on.”

Everyone was told to run and witnesses were told by police to go to the Salvation Army.

A witness saw someone covered in blood escorted by six police officers to get aid at the Salvation Army.

Borough market was evacuated as the suspect was seen there before the incident. There were concerns that there could be an explosive device in the market. People were seen running from the scene.

The public were told to ‘stay off the roads’. The armed officers stood outside the station as police officers on horses manned the road. Ambulances, police cars and undercover police cars went up the street towards London Bridge.

A Monument Costa coffee worker said: “We heard the shots fired – not just one or two but many shots. Then police came in and told us to leave straight away. We had to leave everything behind and lock up after the customers left.

As the manager was locking the door, police officers were running past, it was very scary when the police officers were running too. Everyone was pushing and running to get away as quickly as they could. Then later we found out it was only one guy.”

Jack Merrit’s father (centre) attends a vigil at The Guildhall in Cambridge to honour both him and Saskia Jones after they were killed in Friday’s London Bridge terror attack.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said: “I want to thank all the emergency service personnel who are currently working tirelessly to deal with this incident, particularly the police officers from the Met and the City who have worked so closely together to protect the public.

“I also want to thank the members of the public who have helped, either by showing extraordinary courage by stepping in or by following the instructions they’ve been given by officers at the scene and in the area. This support from our public assists us more than you could know.

“In the coming days you will see more police, both armed and unarmed, patrolling our streets to help reassure those who are understandably concerned.

“Fighting terrorism takes effort and determination from all of us. If you have any information or concerns, please do contact us.

“The empty ideology of terror offers nothing but hatred and today I urge everyone to reject that. Ours is a great city because we embrace each other’s differences. We must emerge stronger still from this tragedy. In doing that we will ensure that the few who seek to divide us will never, ever succeed.”

Assistant commissioner Neil Basu added: “he attacker attended an event earlier on Friday afternoon at Fishmonger’s Hall called ‘Learning Together’. We believe that the attack began inside before he left the building and proceeded onto London Bridge, where he was detained and subsequently confronted and shot by armed officers.

“Extensive cordons are likely to remain in place for some time and I would ask the public to continue to avoid the area.”

“Three people – a man and two women – were injured and remain in hospital. Their families have been contacted and specialist officers are supporting them.

“The actions of the police and the public are all the more remarkable as we now know that the attacker was wearing what looked like a very convincing explosive device. Thankfully, we now know it be a hoax device.”

The family of Jack Merritt said in a statement: “Jack Merritt, our beautiful, talented boy, died doing what he loved, surrounded by people he loved and who loved him. He lit up our lives and the lives of his many friends and colleagues, and we will miss him terribly.

London Bridge the scene of the attack

“Jack lived his principles; he believed in redemption and rehabilitation, not revenge, and he always took the side of the underdog.

Jack was an intelligent, thoughtful and empathetic person who was looking forward to building a future with his girlfriend, Leanne, and making a career helping people in the criminal justice system.

We know Jack would not want this terrible, isolated incident to be used as a pretext by the government for introducing even more draconian sentences on prisoners, or for detaining people in prison for longer than necessary.

“Our thoughts go out to the relatives and friends of his friend and colleague who died with him in this incident, to the colleagues who were injured, and to his brilliant, supportive colleagues at the University of Cambridge Department of Criminology.

“We respectfully request that the media leave us to grieve in private at this very difficult time.”

The family of Saskia Jones said in a statement: “Saskia was a funny, kind, positive influence at the centre of many people’s lives. She had a wonderful sense of mischievous fun and was generous to the point of always wanting to see the best in all people.

“She was intent on living life to the full and had a wonderful thirst for knowledge, enabling her to be the best she could be.

“Saskia had a great passion for providing invaluable support to victims of criminal injustice, which led her to the point of recently applying for the police graduate recruitment programme, wishing to specialise in victim support.

“This is an extremely painful time for the family. Saskia will leave a huge void in our lives and we would request that our privacy is fully respected.”

Cllr Peter John, Leader of Southwark Council, said: “It is devastating to hear that people lost their lives in the dreadful incident on London Bridge today, which also brings back painful memories from the terrorist attack in Borough and London Bridge in 2017.

As ever we are so grateful to the incredible work of the emergency services, and the public for their bravery, and our hearts go out to all those affected.

Terrorism has no place in our great city, and as before, we will not let this cowardly act change the way we live our lives in unity and positivity.”

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