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Mum of Manchester bombing victim completes UCLan counter-terrorism degree

Posted on - 23rd December, 2021 - 12:00pm | Author - | Posted in - People, Preston News, Proud Preston, UCLan, University campus
Figen Murray

A grieving mum has completed a Master’s degree in counter-terrorism after her son lost his life in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing.

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Figen Murray, 60, whose son Martyn Hett was one of 22 people killed in the attack, received a distinction from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Figen completed the course to try and understand why her son died in such tragic circumstances.

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She said: “When my son was killed in a terrorist attack, I remember 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 taking 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.”

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Figen, from Stockport, worked full-time as a psychotherapist in private practice until the day of the attack.

She came to the Preston Campus to talk to students, and after a conversation with Jim Bonworth and Ian Palmer, she soon realised she wanted to enrol on the two-year course.

She said: “I found the first year very interesting, as we were given so much information about the historical 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.”

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Figen has four other grown-up children and five grandsons and combined her coursework with attending the Old Bailey trial of Hashem Abedi and the ongoing Manchester Arena Inquiry.

She attended university on a Tuesday before taking the London train directly from Preston to Euston Station to meet her husband, Stuart.

They both attended court three days a week, and during that time, Figen had to write essays and found it challenging.

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She wrote on the train, in hotel lobbies, and the corner of the family room during breaks in the court.

Figen publicly forgave bomber Salman Abedi less than a month after the attack to break the cycle of hate. She now aims to reach more young people with talks about the dangers of online radicalisation.

She is campaigning the government to introduce Martyn’s Law, which will mandate security at public venues. At present, it is only a recommendation.

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Figen donned her academic cap and gown on 16 December as she took to the stage of 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.”

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