London Bridge attackers were lawfully killed by armed police, inquest jury finds

Jury concludes terrorists ‘ignored clear warning shouts’ and charged at officers

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Tuesday 16 July 2019 16:06
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CCTV footage police shows police open fire on London Bridge attackers

The three London Bridge attackers were lawfully killed by armed police, a jury has concluded.

Inquests into the deaths of Isis supporters Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba heard they were shot dead while charging at officers, armed with kitchen knives and fake suicide belts.

The trio had murdered eight victims and injured 48 more by ramming a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then launching a stabbing rampage in Borough Market on 3 June 2017.

Police officers giving evidence to the inquest described chaos as witnesses called the emergency services with different descriptions of the attackers, how many there were and their location.

Butt, Redouane and Zaghba were not tracked down by armed officers until 10 minutes after the start of the attack.

They were confronted by a City of London Police armed response vehicle (ARV) that had been called to reports of pedestrians being hit by a van.

As the car approached Borough Market, one of the three officers inside recalled hearing members of the public saying “they’re stabbing people” and having looks of “terror, fear and concern” on their faces.

BX46, the operational commander, told the Old Bailey he saw a chair being thrown before Butt appeared with a large knife in his hand.

The officer told how he got out of the car and shouted a warning, but Butt came towards him with his knife raised, forcing him to start moving backwards.

“I believe his intention was to use the knife and stab me, kill me and get hold of my weapons,” BX46 said.

“Around his torso he was wearing an improvised explosive device … even with one or two metres a detonation would be fatal to colleagues, members of the public, anyone in the location.

“So I aimed my rifle towards the male and I was moving back quickly and I moved the fire lever to fire and I pulled the trigger.”

BX46 told jurors he fired until Butt fell to the floor, before looking up to see colleagues shooting the two other attackers.

The ARV’s driver, officer BX45, described two of the attackers running towards him as soon as he opened the door.

CCTV showed Khuram Butt launching himself at armed police before being shot

“I shouted a verbal warning – it was a matter of a split second and the person was on top of me,” he told the court.

“I thought I was either going to be stabbed or his IED would explode. I shot the male. I continued shooting until the male hit the floor.”

A bomb disposal expert told the court he only realised the suicide belts were fake after he cut them off the dead bodies and held them up.

Officers said they saw Butt appearing to move after being shot, and one attempted to handcuff him on the ground before armed police opened fire again to ensure the suspected devices could not be detonated.

A man standing inside a nearby pub was struck in the head by a stray bullet but survived his injuries.

Jurors deliberated for three and a half hours to conclude that all three attackers were lawfully killed by police after they “ignored clear warning shouts”.

Their conclusions detailed how the terrorists were stabbing their last victim, Antonio Filis, as armed police arrived.

The jury said all three attackers “ran towards officers armed with a knife ... and was shot by the police officers who feared for their lives”.

They said both Butt and Redouane were shot for a second time on the ground, because they were moving and officers feared they could detonate their fake suicide vests.

Police observed “no further significant movement” from Zaghba after the initial shooting, the jury said.

Eight victims were killed in the attack

Mark Lucraft QC, the chief coroner of England and Wales, had directed that lawful killing was the only “safe” conclusion.

He praised the actions of the armed officers and said nothing less than “lethal force” had been appropriate, telling jurors: “You may well agree they acted with courage and they only used such force as was necessary.”

The three terrorists had previously been followed by unarmed officers, who were standing feet away from them when they were shot.

PC Bartek Tchorzewski, 36, said he and his colleagues were “just thinking about stopping them” as they continued to stab victims.

His colleague, 25-year-old PC Sam Balfour, said he feared he would be in the line of fire as armed officers approached.

“We started to shout, ‘That’s them, that’s them’, pointing out those terrorists, ‘Shoot them’,” he recalled.

They are among several police officers recognised for their bravery during the atrocity, which was one of five terror attacks to strike Britain in 2017.

Theresa May’s spokesperson paid tribute to police officers and members of the public who “bravely confronted the attackers and showed unstinting courage in the face of such danger and terror”.

“Had it not been for the professionalism, speed and bravery of those who responded and defended themselves and others, many more could have suffered,” he added.

“Our police and security services work tirelessly every day to keep us safe, and when they are called upon in the most difficult of moments their skill and fortitude must be commended.”

Metropolitan Police commissioner Cressida Dick said her thoughts were with the victims’ families, survivors and everyone affected by the attack.

“These dreadful events showed us the very worst of humanity, but they also showed us the very best as well,” she added.

“What stood out during these inquests, head and shoulders above all else, were the accounts of tremendous bravery and compassion by the public and emergency services alike.

“The response that night, under the most extreme and chaotic of circumstances, was quite simply extraordinary.”

Ms Dick said police would “learn lessons” from the inquests, which criticised the investigation into Butt, who was known to be an Islamist extremist years before the attack.

“Those who commit attacks such as this do so intending to cause division, hatred and fear,” she added. “But the response of the people, of and in this city, was to come together, to help each other, to protect each other and to stand against hatred.”

At the start of the attackers’ inquests – which are mandatory for fatal police shootings – Judge Lucraft said there was “no question of attributing blame” or liability for the attack occurring.

He told jurors their only role was to determine how, when and where the three men were killed, adding: “You are not allowed to express an opinion on any other matters.”

It followed separate inquests into the victims’ deaths, where relatives criticised the security services for failing to prevent the atrocity after years of monitoring Butt.

Those inquests, held without a jury, concluded victims Xavier Thomas, 45, Chrissy Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sebastien Belanger, 36, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were unlawfully killed by the attackers.

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