Mask removed, woman who symbolised July 7 attacks relives ordeal

Davinia Turrell tells inquest of moment the bomb went off – and kindness of stranger who protected her
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The Independent Online

The haunting photograph of Davinia Turrell clutching a surgical burns mask to her face as she was led away from the carnage at Edgware Road has become one of the iconic images of the London bombings.

Yesterday the woman behind the mask recalled that fateful day, as she gave evidence at the inquest into the deaths of the 52 commuters who perished on 7 July 2005.

Like many others on the Tube leaving Edgware Road in London that morning, she was on her way to work when suicide bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan detonated his device.

As she sat on the Tube, she was thinking about the day ahead: about picking up her new car and taking her dogs and cats to the vet. These thoughts were suddenly interrupted by a loud bang, she said. "It was like it was in slow motion. The fire felt like a big gust of wind. To my right I saw carnage, like a burnt-out shell, like an abandoned car. The windows opposite me were blown out," she said. She touched her face, which was wet and stinging, she told the hearing. "A paramedic came and gave me a rectangular patch to put on my face to cool it down," she said.

She described being assisted by Paul Dadge, who was photographed leading her away, his arms thrown around her protectively. It was one of multiple scenes of victims being helped by strangers that day, but one which captured the imaginations of many.

Yet again yesterday tales of extreme selflessness and courage were related in modest, understated tones to the inquest being held at the High Court.

Teacher Timothy Coulson recounted how he cared for civil engineer Michael Brewster as he died.

Responding to a call for anyone with first aid to come forward, Mr Coulson and two fellow passengers first tried unsuccessfully to force open the doors of their train. They eventually managed to smash a window with a pole, and Mr Coulson climbed out, and into the bombed carriage. It was here, amid the debris and scattered human limbs, that he came across father-of-two Michael Brewster, "half in and half out of the carriage floor".

When the 53-year-old did not respond to attempts to speak to him, Mr Coulson realised the man was dying, but did not give up on him yet.

He climbed underneath the carriage only to discover that Mr Brewster had terrible torso and lower-limb injuries.

"He shortly after began to fall through the hole in the floor. Then I recall feeling that was the point at which he had died," he said. "I became acutely aware that his eyes were open," he went on.

"I reached forward and I closed them, and as I did so I said a prayer for him, whether he be a religious man or not, because I felt he had finished with this world and shouldn't be staring at it, and I wished him the very best in this world to take with him into the next."

Caoilfhionn Gallagher, a lawyer representing Mr Brewster's family, said: "It's a great comfort to Mr Brewster's family that he was not alone when he died, and that you made the efforts you did to try and save him."

Group Captain Craig Staniforth was likewise praised for his bravery that day, although he put his actions down to his military training as a Royal Air Force medical support officer. He told the inquest how he jumped through a smashed window into the bombed carriage to find a scene that "was a bit like after Armageddon really", with bodies scattered on the floor. He came across an injured passenger, Professor John Tulloch, who "was very confused, he desperately wanted to try and go to sleep," he said.

"I was very conscious I didn't want him to go to sleep, because he had a head injury... The problem was he had this terrible urge to find his briefcase and got terribly agitated he couldn't find it."

The RAF officer found the briefcase, which was lying under the bodies of other victims of Khan's bomb. He returned it to the professor before helping him walk out of the carriage: "That calmed him down an awful lot."