London Holds Vigil After Attack Thrusts Security to Election Fore

December 2, 2019 Updated: December 3, 2019

LONDON—London held a vigil on Dec. 2 for two people killed near London Bridge by a convicted terrorist who had been released early from prison, an incident that thrust criminal justice to the center of a campaign 10 days before a national election.

Jack Merritt, 25, and Saskia Jones, 23, both former students active in a program on prisoner rehabilitation, were killed on Friday when Usman Khan went on the rampage with kitchen knives at a conference about the program beside London Bridge.

Jack Merritt and Saskia Jones
Jack Merritt (L) and Saskia Jones, victims of the London bridge stabbing attack on Nov. 29, 2019, are seen in this undated combination image provided by the Metropolitan Police. (Metropolitan Police/Handout via Reuters)

At the vigil, London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, said the British capital had gathered “in a spirit of defiance to say that London will never be cowed or intimidated by terrorism”.

“The best way to defeat this hatred is not by turning on one another but is by focusing on the values that bind us to take hope from the heroism of ordinary Londoners and emergency services who ran toward danger.”

LondonMayuor speaks at vigil
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan speaks during a vigil for victims of a fatal attack on London Bridge in London, Britain, on Dec. 2, 2019. (Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

Friday’s attack has become a political issue ahead of the Dec. 12 election. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised a tougher stance on the release of prisoners if his Conservatives win a majority, criticizing the opposition Labor Party’s leader Jeremy Corbyn as soft on terrorism.

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

Johnson and Corbyn both attended the vigil in Guildhall Yard, in the heart of London, held to honor the dead, those injured, the emergency services, and the members of the public who intervened.

Messages of condolence and floral tributes London Bridge attack
Messages of condolence and floral tributes, including a photograph of victim Jack Merritt, are seen near the scene of a stabbing on London Bridge, in London, Britain, on Dec. 1, 2019. (Toby Melville/Reuters)

The attacker had been sentenced to a minimum of eight years in 2012 for offenses including plotting to blow up the London Stock Exchange and British parliament.

He was released a year ago without an assessment from the parole board on whether he was a threat to the public, despite a warning from the sentencing judge that such an assessment should be made.

Repeating a promise to end such ‘automatic’ early releases, Johnson said during a campaign visit later in the day that for some militants like Khan, de-radicalization may never be possible: “There are some cases that appear to be too tough to crack, and, alas, he appears to have been one of them.”

By Guy Faulconbridge