7/7 victims' deaths were 'inevitable'

Friday 06 May 2011 11:03

Each of the 52 victims of the July 7 2005 terrorist attacks would have died "whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them", a coroner ruled today.

Ruling that they were all unlawfully killed, Lady Justice Hallett said the evidence "does not justify the conclusion that any failings of any organisation or individual caused or contributed to the deaths".

She spoke to a courtroom packed with bereaved families and survivors who have waited nearly six years for answers to their questions about how four suicide bombers were able to carry out the July 7 2005 attacks on London.

Lady Justice Hallett said: "I have concluded... that the medical and scientific evidence in relation to all 52 victims leads to only one sad conclusion.

"I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that each of them would have died whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them."

The coroner paid tribute to the "quiet dignity" of the families of the innocent victims, saying she was making a series of recommendations which "may save lives" in the future.

She thanked the survivors of the attacks, many of whom are still suffering from the trauma of their horrific experiences, for giving evidence to the inquest.

"Reliving the events of 7/7 was the last thing they needed," she said.

As well as announcing her verdicts for the 52 people killed in the attacks on three Tube trains and a red double-decker bus, Lady Justice Hallett is also ruling on whether a separate inquest should be held for the four bombers.

The bereaved relatives have called on her to make 32 recommendations, including nine relating to the alleged failure by MI5 and the police to stop the atrocities.

The bombings carried out by Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Hasib Hussain, 18, and Jermaine Lindsay, 19, were the worst single terrorist atrocity on British soil.

The inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice in London began in October and heard five months of harrowing and often shocking testimony before closing its evidence sessions in March.

It had a wide-ranging remit to examine whether the emergency services' response was adequate and whether MI5 could have prevented the attacks.

The hearings, which cost nearly £4.5 million excluding some final bills, looked in detail at the bombings at Aldgate, Edgware Road and King's Cross Tube stations followed by the blast on a number 30 bus in Tavistock Square.

Lady Justice Hallett was frequently moved to pay tribute to the courage and determination of the rescuers who gave evidence before her.

They included off-duty policewoman Elizabeth Kenworthy, who used her corduroy jacket and a belt to staunch the bleeding of two severely injured passengers on the Aldgate train.

Many police officers, firefighters, paramedics and London Underground staff displayed extraordinary bravery in descending into dark and smoke-filled Tube tunnels, aware that they could face further bombs or even nuclear contamination.

But their ability to help the injured and dying was restricted by issues ranging from equipment shortages to delays in reaching the scenes of the attacks, the inquest heard.

Most of the emergency services had no way of speedily transmitting messages to colleagues from the bombed trains because their radios and mobile phones did not work underground.

There was widespread confusion about exactly where the explosions had occurred, meaning some emergency responders were initially sent to the wrong places and did not reach the survivors immediately.

Although the Tube bombs exploded at 8.50am, the first fire engine did not reach Edgware Road until 9.18am and the first ambulance only arrived at Aldgate at 9.14am.

Efforts to help the severely injured were also hindered by a lack of stretchers and vital first-aid supplies, such as bandages, painkillers, drips and resuscitators.

In Tavistock Square the rescuers had to employ tables and a window from the bombed bus to move casualties, and used sticky tape and pieces of wood as a makeshift splint.

Protocols on entering potentially dangerous areas stopped some firefighters from going down to the bombed trains immediately.

And London Ambulance Service failed to dispatch all of its available crews to the bomb sites immediately despite requests for more help from staff at the scenes, the inquest heard.

Many of the bereaved families were particularly frustrated by evidence from a senior MI5 officer referred to as Witness G about what the security authorities knew of 7/7 ringleader Khan and his number two Tanweer before the attacks.

MI5 took a clear colour picture of the two bombers at an M1 service station in February 2004, but this was never shown to an al Qaida supergrass who met Khan at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan but did not know his name.

And just months before the atrocities, police received a tip-off about a committed extremist called "Saddique", who could have been identified as Khan but was not for undisclosed reasons of national security.

The coroner also ruled that inquests into the deaths of the four bombers should not be resumed.

"I can find no cause whatsoever to resume the inquests into the deaths of the four men," she said.

"None of the families have sought to argue that any of these inquests should be resumed."

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