In Depth

London Bridge attack: what we’ve learned from the inquest

CCTV footage reveals that one attacker wiped a blood-stained knife on his beard

An inquest has begun at the Old Bailey into the deaths of the eight victims of the London Bridge terror attack.

On 3 June 2017, Khuram Butt, 27, and his accomplices Youssef Zaghba, 22, and Rachid Redouane, 30, were shot dead by police after they drove a rented van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then went on a stabbing spree in nearby Borough Market. Eight people were killed, and a further 48 injured.

The Guardian reports that the London court has heard “dramatic evidence of the carnage wreaked by the three attackers” and how police stopped them. 

The eight-week inquest will be followed by a separate hearing for the inquests of their killers in front of a jury.

Jonathan Hough QC described the attack as a “brief but furious assault”. Sky News reports that there were “shocked gasps” from those present at the hearing when footage of the incident was shown.

Here’s what the Old Bailey has been told.

Lack of barriers could have led to deaths

The inquests have determined that two victims might still be alive if barriers had been put up protecting pedestrians on the pavement from vehicles.

Gareth Patterson QC, representing some of the victims, “questioned a senior officer about why no barriers were put in place on London Bridge”, following a similar attack on Westminster Bridge two months earlier, the BBC reports.

“There were no barriers in place on that pavement protecting pedestrians from traffic on that road,” he said. “If there had been barriers, Christine Archibald and Xavier Thomas would now be with us today.”

Senior investigating officer Detective Superintendent Rebecca Riggs told the hearing “that may well be the case”.

The attackers spoke to a witness without attacking him

In CCTV footage, one of the attackers, Redouane, can be seen talking to an unidentified man and then walking away without attacking him, for “reasons that are not known”, Sky News reports.

Hough said the footage showed that there was “clearly some form of discussion” between the two men, but added that “we don’t know what was said”.

“Despite appeals for witnesses, he [the man in the footage] never came forward,” he said.

Police lost track of the number of attackers

The police had initially been told that there were three attackers at the scene.

However, halfway through the attack, Butt discarded a red jacket to reveal an Arsenal football shirt and a fake suicide belt underneath.

The Daily Telegraph reports that the removal of the red jacket would later lead police to believe a fourth attacker could be at large, due to disparities in witness descriptions. The Guardian adds that even after the terrorists were shot, police feared that other attackers were on the loose.

An attacker wiped his knife on his beard

In what Hough described as a “chilling gesture”, Butt was at one point caught on CCTV washing his 12in ceramic knife and wiping it on his beard.

In the footage, which was taken from the Black & Blue restaurant in Borough Market, another attacker, Zaghba, can be seen having a drink from behind the bar.

The police riddled the attackers with bullets

Det Supt Riggs of Scotland Yard’s counter-terrorism command, who led the investigation into the attacks, told the inquest that the attackers charged the first armed police to arrive on the scene. 

The officers, from City of London Police, fired on the assailants, knocking them to the ground. However, Riggs said that the officers “believed [the attackers] were wearing suicide devices” and feared that they would still be able to detonate them while on the ground.

The officers took cover behind their cars and fired multiple further shots into the bodies of the terrorists. From the moment the attackers’ van mounted the pavement on London Bridge to their deaths in Borough Market, the entire attack had lasted just ten minutes. All of the eight deaths occurred in the first three minutes, The Guardian says.

A bystander was shot in the head

During the shooting of the attackers, Neil McLelland was hit in the head by a stray bullet while taking cover in the nearby Wheatsheaf pub.

Remarkably, despite the shot knocking him off his feet, McLelland survived his injuries.

The BBC reports that the officers then put “themselves in harm’s way” to evacuate the pub while also believing that the suicide vests were real, taking McLelland and others to safety.

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