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London Bridge: Families mourn victims at vigil

The family of Jack Merritt take part in a vigil at the Guildhall in Cambridge

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PA Media

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The family of Jack Merritt take part in a vigil at the Guildhall in Cambridge

Vigils for the victims of the London Bridge attack have been held in London and Cambridge.

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were commemorated at the services, which included a minute’s silence.

They were stabbed to death by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, 28, at a prisoner rehabilitation conference on Friday.

The BBC has learned Khan was under investigation by MI5 when he left prison a year ago but given one of the lowest priorities.

Mr Merritt and Ms Jones were both graduates of the University of Cambridge’s institute of criminology and had been taking part in an event for its Learning Together programme – which focuses on education within the criminal justice system – when they were attacked.

Mr Merritt’s family and his girlfriend attended the service in Cambridge outside the Guildhall.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn were among those at the vigil at the Guildhall in the City of London.

They were joined London Mayor Sadiq Khan who said the best way to defeat the hatred shown in the attack was to focus on the values of hope, unity and love.

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Met Police

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Jack Merritt was a co-ordinator of the Learning Together programme and Saskia Jones a volunteer

“The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another, but it’s by focussing on the values that bind us, to take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and our emergency services who ran towards danger, risking their lives to help people they didn’t even know,” he said.

The London service happened less than a mile from Fishmongers’ Hall, where Usman Khan launched his attack on Friday.

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Media captionA moment of silence was held at the vigil for the victims in London

Bishop of London Sarah Mullally said the vigils remembered “academics celebrating rehabilitation and finding only danger”.

She paid tribute to the workers at Fishmongers’ Hall, who she said went to work to offer hospitality, but found themselves needing to give protection.

A book of condolences is open at Guildhall Art Gallery and members of the public are invited to lay flowers outside nearby Mansion House.

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PA Media

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The vigil in Guildhall Yard in London was led by Bishop of London Sarah Mullally

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Members of the public also paid their tributes

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A vigil was also held at Anglia Ruskin University, where Saskia Jones attended before taking her masters at Cambridge

The victims’ families paid tribute to their loved ones over the weekend.

Mr Merritt was a co-ordinator of the Learning Together programme and Ms Jones a volunteer

Ms Jones’s family said their daughter, from Stratford-upon-Avon in Warwickshire, had a “great passion” for supporting victims of criminal justice.

In a statement, Mr Merritt’s family described him as a “talented boy” who “died doing what he loved”.

Mr Merritt’s father went on to criticise the Daily Mail and Daily Express newspapers for their coverage of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s promise to review licence conditions placed on convicted terrorists released from jail.

On Twitter, David Merritt shared images of the Mail and Express front pages – which reported a “blitz on freed jihadis” – and wrote: “Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos – to promote your vile propaganda. Jack stood against everything you stand for – hatred, division, ignorance.”

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Metropolitan Police

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Jack Merritt’s family said he was ‘looking forward to building a future with his girlfriend, Leanne’

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Metropolitan Police handout

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The family of Saskia Jones said her death “will leave a huge void in our lives”

Cambridge University’s vice-chancellor Prof Stephen J Toope said he was “devastated to learn that among the victims were staff and alumni”.

Toby Williamson, chief executive of Fishmongers’ Hall, praised the bravery of his staff who intervened to stop the attacker, hailing their actions as “extraordinary things done by ordinary people”.

Mr Williamson told how Polish chef Lukasz suffered five wounds to his left-hand side as he fended off the knifeman with a narwhal tusk during “about a minute of one-on-one straight combat” – allowing others time to escape danger.

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Media captionThe chief executive of Fishmongers Hall, Commodore Toby Williamson describes how his staff fought back

Two others grabbed makeshift weapons including a fire extinguisher before the attacker fled down a staircase and then got trapped in reception.

Dr Vin Diwakar, medical director for the NHS in London, said two people injured in the attack remained in a stable condition in hospital, while one had been able to return home.

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Media captionVideo footage shows moment London Bridge attacker was apprehended

‘Minimal risk’

Khan, who was released from prison in December 2018 after serving half of his sentence, was shot dead by police on London Bridge.

The BBC understands Khan was formally under investigation by MI5 as he left jail but placed in the second-to-bottom category of investigations as his initial risk to the public was thought to be minimal.

This was consistent with the grading given to most other convicted terrorist offenders as they go back into the community under a release licence.

A low level of prioritisation is assigned to offenders such as Khan because their release comes with a strict set of licence conditions.

These conditions theoretically provide suitable monitoring and oversight, such as alerts if they contact other suspects or travel outside an approved area.

Khan, the BBC has learned, was on the highest-level of such community monitoring. The overall package, in theory, relives pressure on MI5 so the security service can focus on more immediate threats.

Licence review

The prime minister said on Sunday that 74 people jailed for terror offences and released early will have their licence conditions reviewed.

Later that day, Staffordshire Police said a 34-year-old man had been arrested on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts – but added there was no information to suggest the man was involved in the London Bridge attack.

The man has been named as Nazam Hussain, who was jailed in 2012 alongside Usman Khan and received the same sentence – 16 years with half of that served in prison – after pleading guilty to preparing acts of terrorism.

Following his arrest, Hussain was recalled to prison due to a suspected breach of his licence conditions. Inquiries by detectives into the potential terrorism offences are continuing, police said.

Another man, Yayha Rashid, 23, of north London, has been charged following his arrest on Sunday on suspicion of breaching notification requirements.

The Metropolitan Police said Rashid’s arrest was not connected with the London Bridge attack.

Friday’s incident comes after the UK’s terrorism threat level was downgraded on 4 November from “severe” to “substantial”, meaning that attacks were thought to be “likely” rather than “highly likely”.

The terror threat level is reviewed every six months by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre, which makes recommendations independent of government.

Friday’s attack took place close to where eight people died and 48 were injured by three men who drove into pedestrians on London Bridge, before stabbing people in Borough Market in June 2017.

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