PC 'expected to die' after spotting IRA truck

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The Independent Online
The police constable who spotted the IRA's lethal truck, and helped clear the area before being injured when it blew up, yesterday said he believed he was going to die.

PC Roger de Graaf, 30, said: "There was a rumble and what felt like a 200mph wind coming past my ears. I was knocked off my feet on to the floor and I curled up like a ball. I thought 'I'm going to die now, my time is up'."

Then, as shards of glass and debris rained down around him, he had a second lucky escape. "I looked around, there was a car coming at me, an automatic stuck in gear. The driver was in shock. I thought 'I've survived the bomb, I'm just going to get run over now.' I just managed to roll over and the car stopped as its bumper hit my back," he said.

PC de Graaf, who has just passed his sergeant's examinations, suffered an injury to his left eye which needed five internal stitches and a dozen external stitches, as well as extensive bruising.

He described how he and a colleague were on mobile patrol when they were diverted to check out a bomb threat at South Quay station. They cleared the station but, after further coded warnings from the IRA, they were told the bomb may be near the station, but not necessarily inside.

"We checked around the locality as best we could. Most of the cars at this point had gone," he said. "We became aware of this vehicle. We were actually all sort of standing next to it. We said 'maybe this one shouldn't be here'. We did some checks on it, the results of those checks aroused our suspicions a bit more. At that point we decided if it was going to be anything, that was going to be the vehicle."

PC de Graaf, and his colleagues immediately started evacuating the nearby buildings. They were walking towards some glass-fronted buildings to ensure they were emptied when the bomb detonated.

Pc de Graaf said he was "the length of a football pitch" away from the vehicle when the half-ton device exploded.

He ran for cover under a concrete doorway as glass, metal and concrete debris continued to shower down around him. And then he helped injured colleagues and civilians before he too was taken to hospital. He was then able to call his pregnant wife and tell her he was safe. As she looked after their 20-week-old daughter, she had heard the blast eight miles away at their home in Woodford, east London.

But yesterday PC de Graaf insisted he was no hero. "I have done nothing heroic, nothing special, I'm just the one who made the checks on the vehicle and who has a very scratched face."