7 July: Five years on, the pain is still raw

As the UK's security level is raised again, survivors of 7/7 have yet to come to terms with their ordeal.
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The Independent Online

Sitting in his dark flat in central London, John Falding appears frozen; he is motionless in his home, and in his life. This Wednesday marks five years since his partner Anat Rosenberg, was killed by a bomb on a No 30 bus on 7 July 2005.

They chatted on the phone right up until the moment she died. She was one of 52 people killed when suicide bombers detonated devices on three Tube trains and a bus in central London.

And so now, as for much of the past five years, he sits, surrounded by framed images of the woman he loved; he is certain he will never move on. "I could say that since Anat died my life has been on hold," the 66-year-old says. "But that's not true, because if something is on hold it means you're waiting for something else to happen. I don't envisage anything else happening."

His pain is palpable. In an almost unbearable irony, Ms Rosenberg, who died just before her 40th birthday, was from Israel and had not wanted to return home because she was frightened of being caught up in a terrorist attack. "What happened keeps time telescoped, because it just doesn't seem that it's moved," he says.

He cannot even take comfort in lessons learned. As the anniversary approaches there is mounting concern about the possibility of a fresh wave of terror attacks on the UK. Senior intelligence sources warned last night that the UK remains vulnerable.

Scotland Yard's most senior anti-terror officer, Assistant Commissioner John Yates, warned last week that "eye-watering" cuts of £150m to the security budget would endanger the public, prompted by claims that the cuts would lead to the end of monitoring on some terrorist surveillance targets. He was chastised this weekend by the Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude, who said Mr Yates "should not alarm the public".

Nevertheless there is growing concern among counter-terrorism experts. The UK raised its security level to "severe" earlier this year after concerns about Northern Ireland as the peace process faltered. That revealed that dissident Irish republicans have re-emerged as a significant threat. But militant Islamist terrorism remains the primary threat to the UK.

Just two weeks ago Theresa May, the Home Secretary, banned Zakir Naik, a 44-year-old radical Indian television preacher, from coming to the UK to give a series of lectures in London and Sheffield. He is the first person to be refused entry to the UK since Ms May became Home Secretary last May, signalling a harder line from the Government.

This is scant comfort to those who remember the human cost of the 7 July bombings: the thought of another such incident is almost too much to bear. Despite the years that have passed, Mr Falding's grief does not seem to have dissipated: he has never sought counselling for his loss. "I don't go out any more," he says. "There's no point now. I knew there was help out there with counselling, but I didn't go down that route. Maybe I should have done."

So now his life revolves around honouring Anat's memory. "I go to visit her grave in Jerusalem and see her family twice a year. This is my job now, to look after Anat's memory and give her the immortality that arises from being remembered. People only really die when there's no one left to recall their face or their laugh."

On Wednesday he will perform the same ritual he has every year since she died. "I'll get a dozen open white lilies and lay them at the scene. I'll be there at 9.47 – the time of the attack. As the minute approaches, quite a few relatives will gather, all looking at their watches, waiting for the moment."

Paul Dadge will be among those watching and waiting on Wednesday. The 33-year-old's life changed after his picture was flashed around the world. The photograph showed him bringing a woman, her masked face covered in burns, to an impromptu medical station he set up in Edgware Road in the immediate aftermath of the attacks.

He is relatively unscarred by the experience: he is married and expecting his first child. "My life didn't change because of the attacks but because of that one photograph," he says. "For a while it dominated my life. I still feel very lucky to have survived."

George Roskilly, 67, was just 4ft away from the bomber when a Piccadilly Line train was blown up between King's Cross and Russell Square. He emerged unscathed physically, but he still has flashbacks. "At this time of year I'm particularly bad because it brings back bad memories. I'm not good with loud bangs. I didn't get counselling until nine months after."

He worries about security slipping off the agenda. "Any person who feels they want to blow people up to make a statement can do it. The security on the Underground is probably less than it was after the attacks now because they haven't got the resources."

Security sources said last night that talk of a heightened threat is not just politicking by organisations fighting to retain their funding. "There is a very real threat from the Continuity IRA or the Real IRA," a security source said. "There was intelligence intercepted which suggested they were planning a bombing campaign that would kick off around Easter time, go on through the election, and they were planning at least one big attack on the mainland. There have been some escapes."

The Tory MP Patrick Mercer, who headed the terrorism sub-committee under the last Government, said republican terrorism was "bubbling under". He added: "At the moment, we are much more likely to be hit by Irish republican attacks than by Islamic terror. People have heard about the bigger attacks, but there is a lot more going on on a weekly basis. We have had sectarian attacks, bombs and we've just had a hunger striker call off his protest. This comes around every 20 years or so, but the political climate is heading that way at the moment."

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