The mother of one of the victims of the Fishmongers’ Hall attack has tearfully described her son as a “force for good in the world”.
Cambridge University graduates Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, were killed by convicted terrorist Usman Khan at a prisoner rehabilitation event near London Bridge on November 29 2019.
A jury inquest into the deaths of Mr Merritt and Ms Jones began on Monday before Coroner Mark Lucraft QC at the Guildhall in the City of London.
Ms Jones was a former criminology student and former Cambridge undergraduate Mr Merritt was employed by the university on the Learning Together programme.
Speaking in the Old Library at the Guildhall, Mr Merritt’s mother Anne Merritt wept as she read out moving tributes to her son.
She told jurors: “Jack Merritt was a good person. Jack was a force for good in the world, someone who made other people’s lives better for knowing him.
“We are hugely proud of who Jack was and what he stood for.
“His death was a tragedy but his life was a triumph.”
She read tributes from friends and family who described him as a “true visionary”, a “very cool brother” and a “fiercely loyal” friend who “championed the underdog”.
Sarah, the landlady of The Punter pub in Cambridge, said: “Jack dressed like his favourite pint of Guinness – pristine white t-shirt, pressed black jeans and black doc martens.
“For sure Jack Merritt was destined to do great things. But his swagger was so far from superficial – this young man was bloody clever, had full ownership of a sound moral compass and the intellectual might to challenge the norm.”
Friends from Manchester University, where Mr Merritt also studied, said: “It was clear that Jack was intelligent, but when we started to study miscarriages of justice in further detail, it became clear how strongly Jack felt about criminal justice.”
Learning Together students and mentors said: “The world has lost one of its true visionaries and he’ll be greatly missed.”
Henry Pitchers QC said Ms Jones’ family had decided against doing a full portrait for her as it “would fly in the face” of her private nature.
He said Ms Jones would wish for the inquest to focus on the facts and evidence, with “emphasis to be on a thorough investigation as to how she came to lose her life”.
He said: “It would be her hope that no other family is devastated and heartbroken again in similar circumstances.”
He said it was important to the family that her legacy was not solely based on her work with Learning Together.
Mr Pitchers said: “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.”
He described her research in the field of sexual violence with rape crisis.
He said: “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.”
Mr Lucraft, who is the Recorder of London, described background to the deaths at the Learning Together event.
He told jurors they would have to answer four questions – who were the deceased, when, where and how they met their deaths.
The inquest is expected to last for several weeks and be followed by a separate jury inquest into the death of Khan.