Figen Murray awarded degree in counter-terrorism following son’s death in Manchester Arena bomb

Figen Murray, from Stockport, completed the course to help her understand why her son died in such tragic circumstances.

The mother of one of the Manchester Arena bombing victims 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, 29, was one of 22 people killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, graduated with a distinction at the University of Central Lancashire, at a ceremony held at the Sir Tom Finney Sports Centre last Thursday,

The 60-year-old from Stockport 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.

Figen Murray in her academic cap and gown after graduating from the MSc Counter Terrorism degree at the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

“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.”

‘Sometimes it was hard to sit through’

Before enrolling at UCLan, Figen, who worked full-time as a psychotherapist in a private practice until the day of the attack, had previously visited their Preston campus to give a talk to students.

However after a conversation with staff from the UCLan School of Justice, Jim Bonworth and Ian Palmer, she soon realised she wanted to enrol on to the two-year MSc Counter Terrorism course herself.

Taking about the degree, Figen 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.

Figen's son, Martyn Hett, was one of 22 concert-goers murdered in the Manchester Arena terrorist attack in May 2017. Pic: PA

“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.”

Juggling study with life

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.

“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.”

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.

A version of this story appeared on our sister site the Lancashire Post.