A grieving mum has completed a master’s degree in counter-terrorism to try and understand why her son was killed in a horrific terrorist attack.
Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was one of 22 people killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, has graduated with a distinction from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).
The 60-year-old said: “When my son was killed in a terrorist attack, I remember clearly thinking ‘you kill my baby, you watch what I am going to do!’ At the time I had no idea what shape or form that would take but I simply took the murder of my son very personally, and it became an issue between me and terrorism.
“Martyn would not want me to be angry and bitter but I quickly realised I knew absolutely nothing about terrorism. I didn’t understand why people would be so angry to resort to blowing themselves up and take others with them. I wondered what made them so cross with humanity so, I had the need to find the answers to so many questions around terrorism.”
“Martyn would not want me to be angry and bitter but I quickly realised I knew absolutely nothing about terrorism. I didn’t understand why people would be so angry to resort to blowing themselves up and take others with them“— Figen Murray, whose son Martyn Hett was killed in the Manchester Arena bombing
Figen, from Stockport, worked full-time as a psychotherapist in private practice until the day of the attack. She came to UCLan’s Preston Campus to give a talk to students and after a conversation with Jim Bonworth and Ian Palmer, she soon realised she wanted to enrol on to the two-year course.
She said: “I found the first year very interesting as we were given so much information about the historic background and a whole host of other topics relating to terrorism, such as sectarian violence, radicalisation, the Balkan conflict and the extreme right-wing movement.
“Sometimes it was difficult to sit through, say if there were photos of an attack or a major crime scene. I had to look away and try to ground myself in those moments, but I was determined not to leave the classroom. I always thought ‘Bring it on! I can do this!’ There were thankfully only a few of those tricky moments.”
“I am obviously very thrilled to have graduated but I cannot believe I managed to complete it due to my circumstances“— Figen Murray, who has graduated from the MSc Counter terrorism degree course
Figen, who has four other grown up children and five grandsons, combined her course work with attending the Old Bailey trial of Hashem Abedi and the ongoing Manchester Arena Inquiry.
She said: “I used to attend University on a Tuesday then take the London train directly from Preston to meet my husband Stuart at Euston Station as he travelled from home to coincide with my arrival. We attended court three days a week. During that time there were obviously essays to write and that was challenging. I wrote them on the train to and from London, in hotel lobbies, and during long breaks at court sitting near the coats in the corner of the family room.”
Figen, who publicly forgave bomber Salman Abedi less than a month after the attack to “break the cycle of hate that existed”, is now aiming to reach more young people with talks about the dangers of online radicalisation and is campaigning the government for the introduction of Martyn’s Law, which will mandate security at public venues instead of having it as a recommendation.
She donned her academic cap and gown today,16 December, as she took to the stage of UCLan’s Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre. She added: “I am obviously very thrilled to have graduated but I cannot believe I managed to complete it due to my circumstances. To have passed with a distinction is something I cannot even comprehend as I have been in a constant state of emotional stress throughout the two years I was on the course. I guess it was due to sheer grit and determination.”