‘I had one thought and that was people’s lives needed to be saved’
A police officer has told how he took a “split second decision” to stop one of the London Bridge terrorists from detonating a bomb.
Pc Iian Rae had no idea that Rachid Redouane’s suicide belt was not real when he stepped in to handcuff him on the ground on the night of June 3 2017.
The 51-year-old officer, who was also called to help in the aftermath of the 7/7 Tube and bus London bombing in 2005, said his only thought was to save lives.
Speaking at the conclusion of the London Bridge inquest, he said: “It’s only when you sit back and try to process what you have done you think what was it – stupidity or bravery? Too close.
“To be quite honest I felt that I needed to do something. I did not have time to think about the risk involved. I just went and did what I thought was the best thing for everyone.
“It happened so quick. If I had time to think about what I was doing maybe I would not have done it.
“But I had one thought and that was people’s lives needed to be saved. If they were real we are in proper trouble.
Pc Rae had just dealt with a fight by the Southwark Tavern when the first report came in of pedestrians being run over by a van on London Bridge.
He said: “My initial thoughts were a drunk driver before he heard another call to say people have been stabbed.”
He was flagged down and pointed to Bedale Street where a casualty was lying face down being tended by another officer.
“A member of the public was pointing down Middle Street going through the market saying ‘They’ve gone that way’.
“I was drawn by two of my plain-clothes colleagues and we have gone through the market.
“It’s only when I got towards the end of the Middle Road we came across three people who turned to face us.
“They had their arms raised and we could see a large knife in one hand and what appeared to be bottles strapped to their waists.
“They came towards us and I had to turn and run because at that point I was so frightened.
“It’s only when I was running back that the penny dropped that this is a terrorist attack.”
Pc Rae said he went back into the market because he felt he had to try to stop the terrorists, even though he was armed only with his baton.
He said: “There was only myself and my colleagues. My thoughts are I have to disrupt what they are doing and that was the sole purpose.
“We felt we had to do something. It was not until we got to the end of the market, my colleague was hit by the bottle. He had to turn back because he was injured.
“I could see members of the public down one of the side alleys of the market. I have seen a firearms vehicle coming down Stoney Street.
“I shouted at them to get back because I felt they might become targets for the firearms officers not knowing who the suspects are.
“I could hear some voices shouting and I do distinctly remember hearing ‘armed police’ once and then a lot more shouting.
“And then there were several gun shots and I could see white flashing lights were lighting up the sky in Stoney Street.
“As I got round the corner I could see my colleague Pc Tim Andrews kneeling over.
“He had just got one handcuff on a suspect lying outside the Wheatsheaf pub.
“I have gone over there to assist him and as I have done so he looked over and said ‘there’s two others there – handcuff them’.
“So I turned round and I could see two people lying across the road from the Wheatsheaf.
“The one on the right was not moving and there was a lot of blood coming from his body. That person’s not a threat.
“The gentleman to the left was moving. His arms and legs were moving and I knew he had an IED (improvised explosive device) strapped to him.
“I did not know they were fake. I had to make a split-second decision – if I don’t go and do something there is going to be a lot more lives lost.
“I had to handcuff him and stop him from detonating that device, if they were real or not.
“As I went over there to handcuff that person I was shouted at by firearms officers. They have told me to get out and I have taken their advice and I ran.”
Afterwards, Pc Rae helped one of the injured and travelled with him in the ambulance to hospital.
He said: “It was only at that point I thought how serious this was. How frightened I felt. I had not had time to sit back and think. I felt I was lucky as other people are not lucky.”
He added: “I went round the corner and phoned my wife, told her I was alive and I will see you tomorrow.
“I felt a bit tearful at that point because it had only just sunk in then what happened. Then I went back to the job in hand.”
Pc Rae said the police team work on the night was “magnificent” and without a doubt saved lives.
He was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for Distinguished Service but said he would give it back if just one more person could have been saved.