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Vigils held for victims of London Bridge attack

Political leaders gathered with members of the public to observe a minute's silence in London earlier today.

It was one of twin vigils, the other being held in Cambridge this morning, to remember Saskia Jones, 23, and 25-year-old Jack Merritt who were fatally stabbed during the attack by convicted terrorist Usman Khan, from Stoke-on-Trent, on Friday.

The pair had been involved in a prisoner rehabilitation conference that their killer had also been attending.

Leanne O'Brien, the grieving girlfriend of Mr Merritt, clutched a cuddly toy and wept as she was supported by family members during the remembrance service in Cambridge, where both victims had been students.

In London, Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn stood side-by-side as they observed a minute's silence, along with the city's mayor Sadiq Khan and members of the public.

At the service, Mr Khan urged people to come together following the killings and said the "best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but by focusing on the values that bind us".

He said: "We come together this morning as Londoners to remember, to honour and to mourn the innocent lives lost as a result of this horrific terrorist attack on Friday."

The mayor also thanked the public and the emergency services who "ran towards danger, risking their lives to help others".

Meanwhile, Ms Jones' former school, Winchester House, has paid tribute her.

It said in a statement: "We are shocked and saddened by the news of her death as she was an extraordinary young person; an individual who was talented across the realms of sport, music and academia.

"It is rare to witness such selflessness in one so young and we are proud that she was a member of our school. As a community our thoughts and prayers are with her family."

A former classmate of Mr Merritt at Cambridge recalled with great fondness the "tireless advocate for prisoner rehabilitation", and urged people not to forget what he had stood for in life.

Writing in the New York Times, Emma Goldberg said: "The injustice of somebody murdered while organising for criminal justice feels impossibly sharp."

The remembrance services were held as it emerged that one of nine extremists convicted in 2012 alongside Usman Khan for plotting to attack the London Stock Exchange had been arrested in Stoke-on-Trent. 

Nazam Hussain, 34, was detained on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts after a search of his home address, following a review of terrorists released on licence in the wake of the latest atrocity.

Khan, also from Stoke, and living in Stafford at the time of Friday's events, was on licence and wearing an electronic tag when he launched his deadly assault at a prisoner rehabilitation conference. Three other people were also injured.

The 28-year-old, who was released from prison in December 2018, halfway through a 16-year prison sentence, had been given permission to travel into central London by police and the Probation Service.

Wielding two knives and wearing a fake suicide vest, he was tackled by members of the public, including ex-offenders from the conference, before he was shot dead by police.

The leader of Stoke-on-Trent City Council, Councillor Abi Brown, released this statement earlier today:

"Our deepest sympathies are with the friends and families of those affected by the London Bridge terrorist incident.

"The tremendous courage and selflessness displayed by members of the public and emergency services is an example to us all.

 "We as a city - all communities - have been shocked and devastated to learn that there has been a link to Stoke-on-Trent and do not want this to reflect on the hundreds of thousands of community spirited and law-abiding citizens that make up our friendly and welcoming city.

 “We are working with the police, our partners and people in the city to make sure we do all we can to support our communities at this time.”

 

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