London Bridge terrorists ‘in attacking mode’, inquest hears

The London Bridge terrorists were in “attacking mode” when they stabbed an unsuspecting passer-by and ran towards police marksmen, an inquest has heard.

Antonio Filis was oblivious to the danger when he stumbled across Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, at the end of their rampage on June 3 2017.

Moments later, the terrorists were killed by firearms officers in a hail of gunfire, with one stray bullet hitting a nearby pub-goer in the head.

In just under 10 minutes, Butt, Redouane and Zaghba had killed eight people and seriously injured 48 more.

London Bridge terrorists, left to right, Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba
London Bridge terrorists, left to right, Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba

On the second day of their Old Bailey inquest, jurors visited bustling Borough Market to see the spot where the attackers fell.

Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC pointed out where police officers had taken cover behind a large green pillar, and the window of the Wheatsheaf pub through which Neil McLelland was injured.

He showed jurors the location of the firearms officers’ Armed Response Vehicle (ARV) which rolled down the road into street furniture during the fast-paced incident.

Mr Lucraft said: “I wanted you to get an impression of how narrow the place is. It’s very difficult sometimes to get a real feel for what a place looks like.”

On their return to the Old Bailey, the jury heard evidence from two police officers, Mr Filis and an eyewitness who watched events unfold through the window of the Wheatsheaf pub.

Mr Filis said he had no idea there was a terror attack in progress before one of the knifemen stared at him and came over.

Incident at London Bridge
Incident at London Bridge

He said: “I heard a scream but I could not tell what they were saying because that scream was covered by the sound of my own voice. I raised my hands in defence and shouted something along the lines of ‘Oi what are you doing’.

“I felt a blow on my head. At first I thought it was a bottle or another blunt instrument but I had no idea it was a knife.

“I remember seeing two more people coming towards me. I felt I was being pushed around so I found myself on the ground curled up with my hands over my head.

“I was shocked. I could not feel anything. My adrenaline was very high.”

Mr Filis said: “I knew I was being assaulted. I did not know why at the time. A thought crossed my mind perhaps I was caught in a football brawl.”

He heard “explosions” that sounded like fireworks going off in rapid succession as the terrorists were shot.

“I was still conscious clutching the side of my head. I could feel a liquid, hot and sticky and I looked at my hands and they were red. It was blood.”

As he stumbled away he saw a car slowly rolling down the road, crashing with some tables and chairs.

After he was helped to the Globe pub by a police officer he realised he had been stabbed repeatedly to his body as well as his head.

Rudi Thirion had held the Wheatsheaf pub door shut as the attackers tried to force their way in, before they turned on Mr Filis.

He said: “There was a person walking the other side of the road. He did not see them because he was looking down at his phone.

“They were stabbing down towards the person. I saw blue lights, I assumed it was the police. I heard them screaming ‘drop your weapons, get to the ground’ numerous times.”

INQUEST LondonBridge
INQUEST LondonBridge

He told jurors the knifemen were “definitely in attacking mode” as they ran towards the blue police lights.

“I saw two of them get shot. I did not see the third one get shot. I must have ducked down to take cover.”

He told jurors there were two bursts of rapid gunfire and shouts of “get down, get down”, which Mr Thirion did, thinking they were talking to him.

He went on: “While this was going on I saw Neil to my left fell to the ground, thinking he was taking cover.”

Mr Thirion rushed to put pressure on the wound when he saw blood coming from his eye socket and the back of his head “in a puddle of blood”.

Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC (right) outside the Wheatsheaf where a member of the public was hit by a stray bullet (Aaron Chown/PA)
Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC (right) outside the Wheatsheaf where a member of the public was hit by a stray bullet (Aaron Chown/PA)

Pc Tim Andrews tried to intervene in the attack on Mr Filis but backed away when the armed police arrived.

He told jurors: “I was pointing at Butt shouting ‘shoot him, shoot him’.

“Butt started to close the officer down. The officer pulled the weapon up and shot him a number of times.”

The officer said Butt had been running at the police marksman with “hands raised in a threatening manner” before he was shot.

Butt fell to the ground and the officer shouted to Pc Andrews: “Cuff him. Cuff him,” jurors were told.

He said: “He was making some noises and moving slightly. I put the cuffs straight on.”

When he spotted the fake bomb belt around Butt’s waist, he shouted for everyone to “get back”, thinking it was real.

Pc Iian Rae told jurors how his attention was drawn to the other two attackers who had been shot.

He said: “I ran over to the one that was moving because I knew he had an IED strapped to him by that time. I could see it.”

He went to handcuff him but an armed officer “screamed at me to get out of the way”, he said.