London Bridge inquest: Survivor highlights 'catalogue of failings' as coroner rules deaths were unlawful
PUBLISHED: 17:05 28 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:26 28 June 2019
The victims of the London Bridge terror attack were unlawfully killed, a coroner has concluded.
Chief coroner Mark Lucraft QC delivered his verdict at the end of an inquest lasting almost two months.
He criticised the lack of barriers on the bridge in his conclusions, while the police investigation was "rigorous".
He said there was an "arguable" case there had been a breach of an operational duty in relation to the police and MI5 investigation before the attack and a general breach of systems for protective security on the bridge.
It comes as the girlfriend of one of the victims blamed authorities for a catalogue of "staggering" failings in the lead up to the attack.
Christine Delcros, whose boyfriend Xavier Thomas' body was found near Limehouse three days after being struck on London Bridge, said of the three terrorists: "They tried in vain to extinguish our joy, our hope, our love. But in the end, they failed."
The inquest heard how former London Underground worker Khuram Butt, 27, hired the Hertz van which ploughed into pedestrians on the bridge, killing father-of-two Mr Thomas, 45, and Canadian Chrissy Archibald, 30.
The van crashed into railings, after which Butt and Rachid Redouane, 30, from Barking and Youssef Zaghba, 22, from Ilford, 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, from Brent, as he tried to help her up.
Nurse Kirsty Boden, 28, an Australian who lived in Hampstead, was stabbed after she went to the aid of French musician Alexandre Pigeard, 26, outside the Boro Bistro.
The killers also attacked Sebastien Belanger, 36, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, a Spaniard who lived in Poplar, 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 has heard how barriers to protect pedestrians on the bridge, were not installed in the wake of the Westminster Bridge attack three months before.
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And 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.
In an emotional statement, 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.
"It also adds to our distress to know that the search for Xavier immediately after the attack was so brief - it lasted only 47 minutes."
She also paid tribute to the "love and compassion" of the people who came to the rescue on the night, many risking their lives.
Mr Thomas' parents added: "It seems to us that a number of elements in the behaviour and demeanour of the terrorists failed to be picked up, although at least one of the attackers had been on MI5's radar for a very long time, and there had clearly been many opportunities to link him to both other accomplices, we believe opportunities that were missed and lost."
In a statement, Ms Archibald's parents Greg and Barbara spoke of their hopes that the coroner would recommend "appropriate measures be introduced so that MI5 is notified when a vehicle is rented by a person on their watch list."
They said: "Such a protocol might have prevented the death of Chrissy and others."
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.
The 27-year-old who was awarded the George Medal, said he "played dead" after being stabbed in the head and waited for the next blow which never came then resolved to "fight with everything I've got to stay alive".
He added: "At the inquest... people want to find blame for why such things happened - there are only three people to blame."