Travellers at the scene of an apparent terrorist knife attack in a London Tube station gathered around the badly-injured victim in an apparent attempt to protect him while the alleged assailant remained on the loose.
Muhyadin Mire, 29, appeared in court charged with attempted murder. Witnesses described how the attacker at Leytonstone station in east London on the evening of 5 December had cut at his victim’s throat in a sawing motion after first beating him to the ground.
During a brief hearing at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, prosecutors said that further charges against Mire may follow as counter-terrorism officers continue to investigate what appears to have been the first attempted terror killing in Britain since the murder of soldier Lee Rigby in 2013.
The court heard that the Tube knifeman, wielding a long boxcutter-style blade, was heard to shout “This is for Syria” after the attack.
The 56-year-old victim, known only as “Male A”, required five hours of surgery after suffering wounds including a 12cm-long slash to his throat. The court heard that the man, a musician, was punched to the ground and repeatedly kicked before the attacker took hold of his head and cut at his throat.
Mobile phone footage posted on social media showed a well-built attacker brandishing the knife in the ticket hall before police arrived and disarmed him using Taser stun guns.
It has emerged that members of the public went to the aid of Male A during the four minutes that it took officers to reach the scene with the knifeman still at large.
Witnesses said that while some travellers began to try to tend the wounds of Male A, others had stood around him in an apparent protective barrier to ensure he could not be reached again by the assailant.
Graphic images posted online showed the man, who has asked to remain anonymous out of fear for his safety, sitting slumped on the floor surrounded by a pool of blood with the guitar he was carrying still on his back.
Dressed in a grey t-shirt and jogging bottoms, Mire was brought into court in handcuffs before they were removed on the orders of the judge. Speaking with a London accent, the 6ft3 defendant spoke only to confirm his name, address and date of birth.
David Cawthorne, prosecuting, said the attack as travellers, many of them on their way to Christmas parties, made their way through the busy station had been “violent, sustained and unprovoked”.
The prosecutor said: “The victim was making his way through the station when Mire attacked him from behind in front of numerous members of the public and CCTV cameras.
“Male A was punched, knocked to the ground and repeatedly kicked on the ground. [Mire] then took hold of the victim’s head and used a sawing motion at his neck with a knife.”
Two passers-by who tried to intervene were attacked and one also suffered a cut to the throat, the court heard.
Witnesses said that Mire continued to parade around the station and outside it, allegedly threatening others and shouting “This is for Syria, my Muslim brothers”. The response of one traveller, who shouted “You ain’t no Muslim bruv” at the attacker, was widely reported on social media and given its own Twitter hashtag.
Video footage showed Mire being tasered by the two uniformed officers who first arrived on the scene. The two shots fired by one officer, each delivering a shock of 50,000 volts, failed to stop the attacker and it was not until a third shot, fired by the second policeman, that he fell to ground and was subdued.
The court heard that Mire, who is understood to have lived in Britain since childhood, was examined by medical staff following his arrest and found to be not fit enough to continue to be interviewed. Doctors from an east London mental health trust were consulted.
Police deployed extra officers across the public transport network yesterday, including plain-clothed personnel, to bolster efforts to deter further attacks.
District Judge Quentin Purdy remanded Mire in custody until his next appearance, which will be at the Old Bailey in central London on 11 December.
Anger over filming: Bystanders did nothing
A lift engineer who intervened to try to tackle a knife-wielding attacker at a London Underground station has spoken of his anger as others stood by and videoed the incident on their mobiles.
David Pethers, 33, described how he and another man sought to contain the assailant, shouting and trading blows in an effort to allow others in Leytonstone station to escape as they awaited the arrival of police. The engineer criticised others who rather than join him in efforts to overwhelm the knifeman, took out their phones and recorded the incident.
He told the Daily Mail: “There were so many opportunities where someone could have grabbed him. One guy came up to me afterwards and said, ‘Well done, I want to shake your hand, you are the only one who did anything. I got the whole thing on film’. I was so angry, I nearly turned on him.”
A junior doctor who helped to save the 56-year-old victim of the attack described how he feared the musician might stop breathing after suffering heavy blood loss.
Matt Smith, 28, who was returning home from his shift at an east London hospital when he came across the scene of the assault, said: “There was a lot of blood around him. I saw the extent of the damage. It was pretty bad.”
The victim is understood to be stable in hospital, after undergoing surgery.
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