Victims’ families say ‘missed opportunities’ to stop London Bridge attack
The families of the eight victims of the London Bridge attack have described “staggering” failings and “missed opportunities” to prevent the tragedy.
Criticisms were levelled at the earlier police and MI5 investigation into the ringleader Khuram Butt which failed to identify the threat.
They also said two of the victims would have been saved, had authorities put up barriers on the bridge after the Westminster attack three months before.
Concluding all eight victims were unlawfully killed, Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC criticised security on the bridge, but stopped short of condemning the pre-attack investigation, even though he said there was an “arguable” case.
Christine Delcros was severely injured and her boyfriend Xavier Thomas, 45, killed when Butt’s hire van ploughed into them on the bridge on the evening of June 3 2017.
Of the three terrorists, she said: “They tried in vain to extinguish our joy, our hope, our love. But in the end, they failed.”
Ms Delcros highlighted a “catalogue of failings”, saying: “I believe this attack was preventable.”
She said: “The absence of necessary preventative measures on the bridge, despite repeated, urgent warnings about the risk to pedestrians on the bridge from experts who knew the risks to the public; and imperfect communication between authorities meant that opportunities to identify all the attackers and disrupt their activities did not occur.
“I find it staggering that Butt, a well-known extremist was allowed to work within the London Transport network, to have access to and teach young children, and to rent and use a vehicle in a manner now too often encountered.
“I am dismayed SO15 (counter terrorism police) did not pass this critical information to any of his employers.”
Parents of Canadian Chrissy Archibald, 30, who was also killed on the bridge, said they hoped the coroner would recommend tougher measures to stop dangerous extremists from hiring powerful vehicles in the future.
Greg and Barbara Archibald suggested MI5 should be notified when a vehicle is rented by a person on their watch list.
After wreaking havoc on the bridge, former London Underground worker Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, ran amok around Borough Market with knives strapped to their wrists and fake suicide belts.
They set upon Sara Zelenak, 21, who had fallen over in her high heels then turned on James McMullan, 32, as he tried to help her up.
Nurse Kirsty Boden, 28, was stabbed after she went to the aid of French musician Alexandre Pigeard, 26, outside the Boro Bistro.
Another off duty nurse Helen Kennett was stabbed as she too tried to help Mr Pigeard, but survived the onslaught.
The killers also attacked Sebastien Belanger, 36, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, who was fatally injured as he bravely fended off the attackers with his skateboard.
The rampage which left eight dead and 48 seriously injured was over in just under 10 minutes when the terrorists were shot dead by police marksmen.
The inquest had heard police and MI5 failed to recognise the threat posed by ringleader Butt, who associated with Islamic State fanatic Anjem Choudary, appeared in the documentary The Jihadi Next Door and was able to teach the Koran at a primary school.
Before the attack, Butt had been under investigation yet authorities failed to pass on tip offs about his extremism, including one from a family member.
Mr Pigeard’s father Philippe Pigeard said there were “a lot of missed opportunities” to neutralise at least one of the attackers who was known to be dangerous.
He paid tribute to Ms Kennett saying: “My son was good for humanity. He was gentle, marvellous – a big loss. I want to thank so much Helen for her courage.”
Mr Belanger’s father Julien criticised the “slow response” of London Ambulance Service which meant others had to step in to give aid to casualties.
He added: “Many opportunities were missed to prevent this terror attack.”
In his conclusions, Mr Lucraft noted extraordinary acts of bravery as police officers, medics and members of the public rushed in to help in spite of the danger.
Pc Charlie Guenigault was off duty when he took on the three terrorists with British Transport Police Pc Wayne Marques and Spanish banker Mr Echeverria.
In an interview, he said: “In my head I just see all three of them standing in front of me, knives in hand and fake vests on and that look of, ‘We’re going to kill you’, basically that sort of anger in their eyes.
“When I got stabbed in the head it sounded like an explosion. It just felt like someone had punched me in the face with a massive fist. It didn’t hurt much. I could definitely feel it going into the skin, going into the bone. It was painful afterwards of course.”
Pc Guenigault, 27, who was awarded the George Medal, said he “played dead” and waited for the next blow which never came then resolved to “fight with everything I’ve got to stay alive”.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Met assistant commissioner Neil Basu said: “Without these many acts of bravery and heroism I have no doubt many more people would have lost their lives, such was the savagery of the attack.”
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said: “My thoughts continue to be with the victims and all those affected and I recognise the pain they must have felt reliving events during the inquests.”
He added: “As Home Secretary, it’s my duty to ensure we do everything possible to keep our country safe.
“Our response to the terrorist threat is constantly evolving and since 2017 we’ve made substantial improvements.
“These inquests present further opportunities to reflect on our practices and ensure we are best placed to counter the terrorist threat.
“What’s clear is that in responding to the attack we saw the very best in people – from members of the public to our emergency workers.
“I would also like to pay tribute to the professionalism and tireless dedication of our intelligence and security agencies and counter-terrorism police – who often have to make difficult decisions in extremely complex circumstances.”