London Bridge attack: Man stabbed to death after hitting terrorists with skateboard to save woman, inquests hear

Court hears harrowing details of victims stabbed to death as they ran towards terror attack in belief car crash was accidental

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
Wednesday 08 May 2019 14:35
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Inquest into the London Bridge and Borough Market terror attack begins at the Old Bailey

A man who attacked the London Bridge terrorists with his skateboard to save a woman’s life is among the victims hailed for extraordinary bravery in their last moments.

Inquests into the June 2017 attack heard how eight people were murdered and 48 others seriously injured in 10 minutes of “high and terrible drama”.

The area around Borough Market had been swarming with Londoners and tourists on a warm summer evening, when pubs were packed out for the Champions League final.

Relatives broke down as the Old Bailey was told details of the brutal attacks, which claimed the lives of French, Australian, Canadian, Spanish and British victims.

Among them was Ignacio Echeverria, a financial crime analyst from Spain with a passion for skateboarding.

A family statement read to the Old Bailey said the 39-year-old had spent a full day skateboarding with friends, “moving from one hotspot to the next in London”.

“He had planned to go for dinner to his sister’s place but decided to delay his visit to later in the evening because he was really having a good time,” the Echeverria family said.

“Ignacio and two other friends had rented bicycles to go for dinner – some minutes later they crossed the terrorists who killed him.”

The inquest heard Ignacio Echeverria saw the three terrorists stabbing a woman who was on the ground and launched himself at the attackers, alongside two police officers who were seriously injured.

Chief coroner Mark Lucraft told the court: “Ignacio hit [attacker] Rachid Redouane and possibly also hit Youssef Zaghba with a skateboard that he had with him.

“His courageous efforts were to seek to stop the attack. In the course of doing what he did, he was fatally stabbed.”

The court heard that Echeverria was a devout Catholic who tried to help youngsters through skateboarding, and spoke English, French, German and Spanish fluently.

The female victim he protected, Marie Bondeville, was seriously injured but survived alongside her boyfriend – who was put in a coma.

Echeverria had been the last of eight victims murdered by the trio of terrorists, who killed two people on London Bridge with a hired van before crashing and launching a stabbing rampage in Borough Market.

It only ended when ringleader Khuram Butt, Redouane and Zaghba were shot dead by armed police at 10.16pm, exactly 10 minutes after their van first mounted the pavement to target pedestrians.

The inquests will examine the MI5 investigation into Butt, who was a known Islamist, the lack of barriers on London Bridge, the emergency response and van hire.

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick and assistant commissioner Neil Basu, head of UK counterterror policing, watched as bereaved victims read out emotional tributes and showed smiling photographs to the court on Tuesday.

French rock musician Philippe Pigeard said his son Alexandre was murdered while “rushing to see if he could help” victims of what he believed to be an accidental crash.

He asked how the attack was possible “within the heart of London, in spite of security services and the threat level, and two attacks” earlier in 2017.

Mr Pigeard said he was “inconsolable” and urged British authorities to consider arming police and question what drove the perpetrators to attack.

His 26-year-old son was a DJ who worked as a waiter at Boro Bistro, which sits in a courtyard where several other victims were stabbed, and called his father shortly before he was stabbed to death.

Australian nurse Kirsty Boden had been inside the restaurant with friends when she heard the van crash, and went out to investigate when she saw Mr Pigeard bleeding on the ground.

The court was shown CCTV of Boden motioning to her friends to stay back before bending down to help, when she was subjected to a sustained attack.

Police officers on Borough High Street in London after the terror attack in June 2017

The 28-year-old managed to run into an alleyway but collapsed and died of her injuries.

Boden’s partner, James Hodder, said he was still “in awe of her bravery”, adding: “Her actions on that night didn’t surprise anyone who knew her. To Kirsty it would not have seemed brave.

“She loved people and loved her life helping others. To Kirsty, her actions that night would have been an extension of how she lived her life. We are so unspeakably proud of her.”

French chef Sebastien Belanger, 36, had been drinking at Boro Bistro and was cornered by all three of the attackers but “bravely fought back” before being stabbed to death.

In a statement his mother, Josiane Belanger said: “We miss him so much, his smile, his joie de vivre. I do not forgive what they did to him. They mutilated and killed him.”

Another Frenchman, 45-year-old Xavier Thomas, became the first victim of the attack when he was struck by the terrorists’ van and thrown into the Thames.

The father-of-two was walking with his girlfriend Christine Delcros on the first day of their holiday in London, and called his teenage son seconds before being killed.

Ms Delcros, who was seriously injured, wept in the witness box as she told the court: “Since Xavier disappeared in such tragic and traumatic circumstances, our whole world has fallen apart.”

The van repeatedly mounted the pavement on London Bridge, killing the second victim as she walked alongside her fiance.

The court heard that Canadian social worker Christine Archibald, 30, had kissed her husband-to-be and told him “I love you” moments before being killed.

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Her fiance, Tyler Ferguson, said they were “very much looking forward” to spending the rest of their lives together and starting a family.

“No words can express how I felt when this happened, I was absolutely devastated,” he added.

Australian au pair Sara Zelenak was on a “trip of a lifetime” when she was knifed to death while on a night out with a friend, her family said.

And dual British-Filipino national James McMullan had been celebrating getting financial backing for his online education company when he was murdered.

The 32-year-old been watching the football match with friends in The Barrowboy & Banker pub when he went outside for a cigarette and was caught in the attack.

The court heard that the terrorists had taped 12-inch ceramic kitchen knives to their wrists and were wearing fake suicide vests.

Their deaths will be examined before a jury, in separate inquests coming after an estimated eight weeks of hearings for their victims.

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