The first victim of the knife attack on London Bridge has been named as 25-year-old Cambridge graduate Jack Merritt.
Merritt, who graduated in 2017 with a master's degree in criminology from the University of Cambridge, previously studied law at Manchester University. He wrote his dissertation on the overrepresentation of young men in the British prison system who are black, Asian, and from ethnic minorities. He was described by his father as someone who always "took the side of the underdog".
He was one of two people killed when a convicted terrorist went on a knife rampage while wearing a hoax explosive device on Friday, Nov. 29. A woman who died in the attack has not yet been named. Three others were injured
His father, David Merritt, tweeted and then deleted a moving tribute. "My son, Jack, who was killed in this attack, would not wish his death to be used as the pretext for more draconian sentences or for detaining people unnecessarily," he wrote. "R.I.P. Jack: you were a beautiful spirit who always took the side of the underdog."
In a second tweet, he continued: "Cambridge lost a proud son and a champion for underdogs everywhere, but especially those dealt a losing hand by life, who ended up in the prison system."
Merritt worked as a coordinator for Learning Together, which is run by the University of Cambridge's Institute of Criminology.
Learning Together was holding a five-year anniversary conference at Fishmongers' Hall, which the attacker reportedly attended.
Audrey Ludwig, the director of legal services at the Suffolk Law Centre, had gotten to know Merritt over the past year. Ludwig said he had "a deep commitment to prisoner education and rehabilitation".
Law lecturer Serena Wright offered her condolences to Merritt's friends and family on Twitter. She wrote: "I knew your son through Learning Together & I loved him to pieces — he was the sweetest, most caring and selfless individual I’ve ever met. The warmest heart, always with time for anyone. Completely irreplaceable — I will mourn his loss greatly and honour his memory."
In a statement released before any victims were named, the vice-chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Stephen J Toope, said: "We mourn for the dead and we hope for a speedy recovery for the injured. Our thoughts are with all their families and friends."
A former teacher described Merritt as "absolutely delightful and so talented".
The rapper Dave, whose album was inspired by rehabilitation therapy his brother had received in prison, in which offenders role-play events from their past , described Merritt as "the best guy".
The perpetrator, who was released from prison a year ago on licence, was still wearing an electronic tag at the time of the attack; questions have been raised about how effectively he was being monitored since his release.
He was jailed in 2012 for his role in a failed attempt to bomb the London Stock Exchange and plotting to set up a terrorist training camp. He was originally handed an indeterminate sentence, which meant he would not have been released until he was no longer deemed to be a risk to the public.
In 2013, the Court of Appeal replaced the sentence with a 16-year fixed-term one. Having served the minimum eight years, he was automatically released on licence without the involvement of the parole board.
Prime minister Boris Johnson has vowed to "toughen up sentences" in response to the incident, adding, "I've said for a long time now that I think the practice of automatic early release — where we cut a sentence in half and let really serious and violent offenders out early — simply isn't working.
"And I think you've had some very good evidence of how that isn't working, I'm afraid, with this case."