London Bridge inquest: Police lawfully killed Barking and Ilford terrorists, jury finds
- Credit: Archant
A jury has concluded the London Bridge terrorists, who killed eight people and injured 48 others, were lawfully shot dead by police.
Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, both from Barking, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, from Ilford, mowed down pedestrians on the bridge before stabbing random members of the public around Borough Market.
They were armed with ceramic knives and had fake suicide belts strapped around their waists during the marauding attack on the evening of June 3, 2017.
The rampage was halted after less than 10 minutes when the attackers confronted three armed police in Stoney Street.
The Old Bailey heard that the officers shouting warnings and opened fire as Butt, Redouane and Zaghba came at them.
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In the hail of bullets, a man in the nearby Wheatsheaf pub was hit by a stray round but survived.
Fearing Butt and Redouane could still detonate explosive devices as they lay injured, the police officers shot at them again, jurors were told.
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A bomb disposal expert told the court he only realised the suicide belts were fake after he cut them off the dead bodies and held them up.
Jurors deliberated for three-and-a-half hours to conclude that all three attackers were lawfully killed by police after they "ignored clear warning shouts".
Chief coroner Mark Lucraft QC had directed them that was the only "safe" conclusion in the circumstances.
He praised the actions of the armed officers and said nothing less than "lethal force" had been appropriate.
He told jurors: "You may well agree they acted with courage and they only used such force as was necessary."
In a narrative conclusion, the jury found the attackers were in the process of attacking a member of the public in Stoney Street when City of London armed police arrived on the scene. They ran at officers with knives " ignoring clear warning shouts".
Redouane and Butt were shot by officers who "feared for their lives" while Zaghba got within "very close range" of another officer who shot him in defence of himself and others, the jury found.
After falling to the ground, the attackers were covered by City of London and Metropolitan Police officers who saw what they believed were explosive devices on them.
Butt and Redouane were observed making "significant movements", further warnings were given and they were shot again over fears they would detonate the devices leading to "loss of life", the jury concluded.
During the inquest, jurors visited the spot in Stoney Street where Butt, Redouane and Zaghba died and heard dramatic accounts of the final moments.
Pc Sam Balfour, 25, and Pc Bartek Tchorzewski, 36, were among unarmed officers who tracked the attackers through Borough Market.
In an interview coinciding with the conclusion of the inquest, Pc Tchorzewski said: "We were just thinking about stopping them. Assume the worst and you try to think what you may encounter and what we will do.
"But to be honest nothing can prepare you for that. No briefings."
Pc Balfour said: "I was quite aware walking down they could spring out at us at any second."
When armed police arrived on the scene, Pc Balfour feared he was in the line of fire and might get shot himself.
He said: "We started to shout, 'That's them, that's them', pointing out those terrorists, 'Shoot them'."
An armed officer identified only as BX46 told jurors he shouted words to the effect of "armed police, stand still, drop the knife", believing he was in immediate danger as Butt came at him.
He said: "I believe his intention was to use the knife and stab me, kill me and get hold of my weapons.
"At this point I was aware that around his torso he was wearing an improvised explosive device.
"I already knew he had a knife and he was a threat to my life but now he was an even bigger threat, even with one or two metres a detonation would be fatal to colleagues, members of the public, anyone in the location.
"So I aimed my rifle towards the male and I was moving back quickly and I moved the fire selector lever to fire and I pulled the trigger."
His colleague BX44 also shot at Butt but had break away to shoot at Redouane as he bore down on another colleague, BX45.
He said: "I carried on firing until I had to deal with the third threat of Youssef Zaghba who was on top of me.
"I was backing away trying to create a reactionary gap when I fired and fell backwards, and as I fell backwards I fired and from the floor I fired through my legs up to his chest. I thought he was about to kill me."
Pc Iian Rae said he went to handcuff Redouane as he moved on the ground while his colleague Pc Tim Andrews handcuffed injured Butt.
Pc Rae said: "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."
The firearms officers then used "lethal force" to avert the danger that the terrorists would detonate explosive devices, jurors heard.
Pc Rae, 51, who was called on to protect the public in the wake of the 7/7 London bombings in 2005, was one of a number of officers recognised for their bravery.
He said police teamwork on the night of the London Bridge attack was "magnificent".
A separate inquest concluded victims Xavier Thomas, 45, Chrissy Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sebastien Belanger, 36, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were unlawfully killed.
Downing Street praised the emergency services and members of the public who confronted the attackers.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman said: "Today's inquest verdicts are an opportunity to pay tribute to the police officers, those off duty and the many members of the public who bravely confronted the attackers and showed unstinting courage in the face of such danger and terror.
"The new footage of events is nothing if not testament to that.
"Tragically eight people were killed and another 48 were injured but, as we have seen, had it not been for the professionalism, speed and bravery of those who responded and defended themselves and others, many more could have suffered.
"Our police and security services work tirelessly every day to keep us safe and when they are called upon in the most difficult of moments their skill and fortitude must be commended."
Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Cressida Dick has welcomed the London Bridge attack inquest.
She said: "I welcome today's verdicts that the armed officers who confronted and shot the three attackers, acted lawfully. I want to pay tribute to the tremendous courage and professionalism they showed that night.
"Faced with an appalling and confused scene they acted calmly, quickly, decisively and in accordance with their training."
She added: "Those who commit attacks such as this do so intending to cause division, hatred and fear. But the response of the people, of and in this city, was to come together, to help each other, to protect each other and to stand against the hatred of the attackers.
"It is part of what makes London one of the world's great cities.
"Its diversity, its culture, its inclusivity; it's what makes people from all over the world come to visit, to work or live here and what makes it such a special place.
"The events of the June 3, 2017, whilst robbing us of eight much loved people who will never be forgotten, have ultimately not changed our city."