Rookie policewoman ran to help, 7/7 inquest told

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The Independent Online

A new policewoman with just five weeks' service today told the 7/7 inquest how she "didn't give any thought to turning around" as she ran into a pitch black Tube tunnel where 26 people were killed.

Probationer WPc Helen Skeggs was preparing for her beat patrolling Hampstead's streets on July 7 2005 as terrorist Jermaine Lindsay detonated a rucksack full of explosives on the Piccadilly line between King's Cross and Russell Square.

She quickly jumped into a van with other young constables and drove to Russell Square.

Reliving the moment she arrived at the booking hall which was full of survivors, she said: "It was more like a scene you would expect from a film.

"There were walking wounded everywhere, lots of blood everywhere and lots of people crying for help."

The sight prepared her for far worse below and she ran down to to the platform with a bunch of other young probationers.

"It was covered in blood," she said.

"And I could hear cries coming from the Tube.

"It was very dark and I could see smoke coming out of the entrance of the tunnel."

A senior officer briefed the group before setting off into the mouth of the tunnel.

"Sergeant Tims very quickly briefed us that he believed it was a terrorist incident and that we had a choice then," she said.

"If we wanted to go down to assist or if we didn't, then we didn't have to.

"We all obviously said that we wanted to go down."

Making their way through the dark of the tunnel the officer heard an explosion above ground.

It was the Number 30 bus being blown up by 18-year-old Hasib Hussain in Tavistock Square, killing 13 people.

That bomb went off an hour after Lindsay, 19, ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer detonated their bombs almost simultaneously underground.

The suicide bombers killed 52 innocent people.

"I didn't give any thought to turning around and going back," said WPc Skeggs.

She said she looked at a fellow probationer and said "let's do this" and pressed on determined to help as many victims as possible.

Arriving at the wreckage she helped survivors and carried a man to safety back down the tunnel before returning to the carriages where she worked exhausted to save Shelley Mather.

The 26-year-old Kiwi, who had been living in London for three years, was alive when WPc Skeggs helped carry her off the carriage.

But she died minutes later as a doctor was preparing to perform an emergency tracheotomy on her.

A team of police and paramedics carried Miss Mather off the crumpled carriage on a makeshift stretcher.

"I had hold of her hand and looked after her head," the officer said.

"I assisted in carrying her down the steps.

"She wasn't moving and she wasn't talking.

"Her head was slightly to the side and she was looking at me and her eyes were open.

"I thought she was alive, I was speaking to her quite a bit.

"I just said 'Don't worry, we are going to get you out of here. You are going to be safe and well, just hold on,' that kind of thing."

WPc Skeggs won a Commissioner's High Commendation for her heroism.

The coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, said eyebrows raised in the courtroom when she said she only had five weeks' service when the disaster happened.

Lady Justice Hallett said: "You couldn't have been criticised when given the choice of electing to stay on the platform or helping upstairs.

"You couldn't have been criticised if when you heard the bomb you had turned back.

"You did neither.

"Not only do you have the commissioner's commendation, you have mine. Thank you."