A Cambridge University professor who tried to rehabilitate London Bridge terrorist Usman Khan also lobbied for the release of a dangerous, British born murderer jailed in the US for strangling his girlfriend, MailOnline can reveal.
Dr Ruth Armstrong is co-founder of the university’s ‘Learning Together’ scheme, a partly government-funded programme where students and prisoners learn together.
Khan, jailed in 2012 for a failed Mumbai-style terror plot, had been invited to London to speak at a conference to mark the scheme’s five-year anniversary before he launched his murderous attack.
Dr Ruth Armstrong (left) from Cambridge University campaigned for the release of Briton Dempsey Hawkins (right) who spent 38 years behind bars in the US for murdering a girl, 14
Hawkins, who was born in London, but moved to the US when he was six (pictured in 1978 when he was arrested) was 16 when he lured his former girlfriend into woods and strangled her
Hawkins was released by the US authorities and immediately deported to the UK where Dr Armstrong got him a job at her husband’s Mexican restaurant in Cambridge (pictured)
Now it has emerged that Dr Armstrong was instrumental in the release of release of Dempsey Hawkins, who strangled his 14-year-old girlfriend in the woods after she broke up with him.
Hawkins, who was born in London but moved to the US when he was six, was sentenced to at least 22 years in jail and wasn’t eligible for parole until 2000.
He was then denied freedom nine times until his lawyer, Issa Kohler-Hausmann, reached out to Dr Armstrong over his case.
The killer’s supporters complained he had served nearly four decades behind bars for a crime he committed when he was only 16 – but the family of his victim Susan Jacobson said he had not showed remorse for the killing and was still a danger.
In an unusual decision which was reported on both sides of the Atlantic, a US parole board ruled he could be released only if he was immediately deported to the UK.
At the time of the decision, Ms Jacobson’s sister Barbara Reno told of her fears he was still dangerous, saying: ‘We’re concerned about the safety of the people in the community he’s been released into.’
But Hawkins insisted he was sorry and said: ‘I never stop reflecting in one sense or another. There’s always things to remind me. It never leaves me. My shame of it is absolute. It’s perpetual.’
The killer (left) served four decades for murdering his ex-girlfriend Susan Jacobson (right) in 1976. Since his release Hawkins changed his name and met women on dating site meet.com
Dr Armstrong was among a team of people who campaigned for his release – and even got him a job in her husband’s Cambridge restaurant ‘Nanna Mexico’.
His case was thrust back into the spotlight last year when it emerged Hawkins had changed his named and was contacting women on the dating site Meetup.com.
Then teacher Caroline Anderson, 42, said Hawkins bombarded her with ‘creepy’ messages after she rejected him at a speed dating event.
Ms Anderson says she now ‘sleeps with a knife under her pillow’ after he got hold of her mobile number at the dating night and sent her a string of flirty Whatsapp messages.
Last year British teacher Caroline Andreson (pictured) told how Hawkins bombarded her with ‘creepy’ text messages after she rejected him at a speed dating event in Cambridge
Ms Anderson (above), 42, said she got hold of her mobile number to send her the ‘flirty’ Whatsapp messages and she was now living in fear that he would he find her address
She claims she ignored his unrequited messages which included a selfie with the caption: ‘If you want to hang out with me in the middle of nowhere give me the green light’.
She only realised his true identity when she spotted a story about him in a newspaper and recognised his distinctive first name.
Ms Anderson said she was terrified after learning he was a convicted murderer
She said at the time she is terrified he’ll discover her address and so she sleeps with a baseball bat, hockey stick and a kitchen knife next to her bed.
She said: ‘I can’t take any chances. He took my number without my knowledge. He knows I live in the area so it’s only a matter of time before he knows my address.
‘He’s unhinged. He shouldn’t be allowed to roam around.’
Hawkins said at the time he had done nothing wrong and had not harassed anybody. He said he was trying to focus on his future.
Dr Armstrong is being supported by colleagues after witnessing Khan’s rampage at the Fishmongers’ Hall event she hosted near London Bridge on Friday.
Cambridge University vice chancellor Stephen Toope said he had spoken to both Dr Armstrong and Dr Amy Ludlow about what happened.
He said: ‘I spent about an hour and a half with them yesterday and of course they are absolutely devastated by what has happened. They are deeply sad.’
The future of Dr Armstrong’s Learning Together scheme is now however uncertain following Khan’s actions. Oxford University today cancelled a similar event following the terror attack.
Dr Armstrong’s Learning Together scheme, which had been working with prisoners since 2014, invited Usman Khan to London to a conference when he launched his murderous rampage
The terrorist attack has also led to increased debate around the issue of criminal rehabilitation.
Fellow criminologist Ioan Durnescu tweeted his support for the two academics last night, tweeting: ‘Difficult times for criminology. Lets stand by our colleagues Ruth Armstrong and Amy Ludlow!’
Dr Armstrong has been contacted for comment.