‘You’re sitting reading your book and then bang’: Parsons Green commuter describes horror of Tube bombing

‘People on the platform were climbing over the railings, they were jumping onto the tracks,’ Chris Wildish tells The Independent

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Friday 16 March 2018 21:41
Metropolitan Police release CCTV footage showing moment of explosion at Parsons Green

“You’re sitting reading your book, it’s Friday morning, you’re going to work, you’re thinking about the glass of wine you’re going to have this afternoon – and bang.”

Chris Wildish was among hundreds of people packed on a rush-hour Tube train when a homemade bomb partly exploded at 8.19am, sending a fireball rocketing into commuters.

More than 50 people were injured by the flames and ensuing stampede to flee Parsons Green station on 15 September.

“I saw the flash of flame and I heard a thumping sound, there was this pause and then the stampede,” Mr Wildish told The Independent after bomber Ahmed Hassan was convicted.

“I thought people were running away from being hit by another train behind but then there were people going, ‘There’s a knife, there’s a gun’.

“People on the platform were climbing over the railings, they were jumping onto the tracks.”

Victims broke down as they gave evidence to the Old Bailey at Hassan’s trial, telling how they suffered horrific burns and broken ribs.

Fearing injury in the crush to escape up a single staircase, Mr Wildish stayed on the platform with a small number of passengers unaware that a bomb was just metres away.

“We were standing looking into the train at the device for a couple of minutes going, ‘What the hell has just happened here’,” he recalled.

“I stupidly got back on the train twice, once to help a young girl looking for her phone, and again to get a mother’s baby buggy.”

It was only when Mr Wildish detected a strong chemical smell and noticed the wires hanging out of the burning bucket that he started to realise the magnitude of what he escaped.

Within minutes police arrived and moved members of the public to safety, later interviewing Mr Wildish and offering him counselling and other support.

But the advertising executive said the traumatic scenes still “play back”, particularly his memory of seeing young children in the carriage.

Mr Wildish said he started to feel “shaky” when he arrived home and saw his 12-year-old daughter for the first time after the attack, and has since undergone counselling.

“I was on a train the other day and there was a big bag on the floor and I moved carriage,” he said. “I’m not going to take the risk.”

The 46-year-old South African hopes Hassan “gets what he deserves”, fearing many more people could have been injured if the bomb detonated fully or when the District Line train was in a tunnel.

“Anybody who puts a bomb on a train with innocent people on their way to work and kids on their way to school deserves to go to jail,” he added. “He’s an 18-year-old kid and his life is over.”

Mr Wildish had been following the teenager’s trial, seeing him depict himself as an intelligent student who built the bomb because he was “bored” in the summer holidays.

Hassan, an Iraqi asylum seeker, faces life imprisonment when he is sentenced next Friday.

The trial heard that he had been reported to the Government’s Prevent counter-extremism programme by social services and teachers who saw him receive a message about a “donation to IS” and listening to jihadi songs.

Police claimed Hassan was “devious” and suggested he fooled specialist officers by appearing to engage with the initiative while secretly planning his attack.

The Home Office announced an internal review by police and Surrey County Council, which has vowed to learn lessons from any “missed opportunities”.

Mr Wildish said the Government had been “fantastic” in the wake of the bombing and he was unsure what more they could do to prevent future atrocities.

“This is just an average guy who did a ridiculously stupid thing – how do you monitor everyone?

“You think to yourself that Amazon should flag that somebody’s buying big bottles of peroxide but you’ve got to be realistic, it’s impossible to track every single person all the time.

“But [if] there were big massive gaps, somebody did something wrong and he fell through it, then the Government should absolutely do more.”

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