Britain holds vigil after London Bridge attack

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the head of the opposition Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, attended a vigil on Monday for the two people who were killed by a man who went on a stabbing rampage near London Bridge on Friday.

The vigil was held in Guildhall Yard to honour Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, as well as the injured, the emergency services and members of the public who tackled the attacker.

Merritt and Jones were killed when Usman Khan, a man convicted of terrorism offences in 2012, went on the rampage with kitchen knives at a prisoner rehabilitation conference beside London Bridge.

Confronted by bystanders, including a Polish man brandishing a narwhal tusk and others with fire extinguishers, Khan, who was wearing a fake suicide vest, was wrestled to the ground and shot dead by British police.

With less than two weeks to go until the December 12 election, British politicians sought to apportion blame for the early release of Khan — who was released in 2018 despite a warning from the sentencing judge in 2012 that he was a danger to the public.

“I absolutely deplore the fact that this man was out on the street, I think it was absolutely repulsive and we are going to take action,” Johnson said on Sunday.

Johnson’s Conservatives have championed tough police and prison measures, but opponents have criticised them for overseeing almost a decade of cuts to public services.

Conservative cuts to community policing, probation, mental health, youth and social services could “lead to missed chances to intervene in the lives of people who go on to commit inexcusable acts,” Corbyn said.

Merritt's father called on the media and politicians not to use his son’s death to justify division or hatred.

“Don’t use my son’s death, and his and his colleague’s photos — to promote your vile propaganda,” David Merritt tweeted.

The two were involved in the University of Cambridge’s Learning Together programme to help educate and rehabilitate prisoners.

Khan was attending a Learning Together event when he began his attack. — Reuters