Mother of Manchester Arena attack victim graduates with a degree in Counter Terrorism

"This one's for you, Martyn."

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 17th December 2021

The mother of one of the Manchester Arena attack victims has this week graduated with a Masters degree in Counter Terrorism.

After two years of study, 60-year-old Figen Murray – whose son Martyn Hett was one of 22 people killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing – has gained an MSc in Counter Terrorism, and graduated on Wednesday with a distinction from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan).

Figen said she completed the degree to try and understand why her son was killed.

“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!’ [and] 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,” she explained.

She continued: “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 [and] I wondered what made them so cross with humanity so, I had the need to find the answers to so many questions around terrorism.”

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


But when she went to UCLan’s Preston Campus to give a talk to the students there, she had a conversation with course leaders Jim Bonworth and Ian Palmer, and she soon realised she wanted to enrol on to the two-year course herself.

Figen’s son, Martyn Hett, was one of 22 people killed in the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing / Credit: Martyn Hett

“I found the first year very interesting as we were given so much information about the historic background,” she continued.

“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!’ [and] there were thankfully only a few of those tricky moments.”

What’s even more impressive is that Figen managed to combine her course work with attending the Old Bailey trial of Hashem Abedi – the brother of the Manchester Arena bomber – and with the ongoing Manchester Arena Inquiry too.

“I am obviously very thrilled to have graduated but I cannot believe I managed to complete it due to my circumstances,” she admitted.

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.

“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,” she concluded.


“I guess it was due to sheer grit and determination.”

Featured Image – UCLan