London Bridge attackers 'kept coming' as they were being shot, armed police officers tell inquests

'I believe his intention was to use the knife and stab me, kill me and get hold of my weapons'

Lizzie Dearden
Security Correspondent
Thursday 04 July 2019 19:19
CCTV footage police shows police open fire on London Bridge attackers

Armed police officers who shot the London Bridge attackers dead have told how they feared the terrorists would take their guns to kill more victims.

The officers told inquests into their deaths that the knifemen “kept coming” towards them even as they were shot.

The Old Bailey heard that the three City of London Police officers had to move backwards as the men ran at them, as one of their victims lay bleeding on the ground.

The terror attack on 3 June 2017 was the first firearms incident attended by one of the officers, who told how he fell over and shot one of the attackers through his legs.

They were in an armed response vehicle (ARV) that had been called to reports of pedestrians being hit by a van on London Bridge.

“I feared the worst knowing what happened a couple of months prior [in the Westminster attack],” an officer codenamed BX46 says, adding an operation for a marauding terrorist attack had been declared.

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

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

The officer says 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 says.

“At this point I was aware that 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.

Footage released of London Bridge victim who used skateboard to fight terrorist

“They were very close to me indeed, a matter of a metre or two. Both males had knives in their hands,” he told the court. “I recall seeing one of them had what I believed was an improvised explosive device (IED) strapped to his chest."

“I shouted a verbal warning. It was a matter of a split second and the person was on top of me. 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.”

BX45 says the handbrake on his ARV had not been secured, and the car slowly rolled forward during the shooting.

The third officer officer, BX44, says the confrontation in Stoney Street was his first spontaneous firearms incident.

He told jurors that he initially fired at Butt because he believed he would kill BX46, adding: “The red dot [from the gun’s sights] was on him but there was very little reaction and I was surprised he was still coming.”

“I continued to track him and fire shots until I had to break away to deal with Rachid Redouane, who at this point was closing us down and was about to kill another colleague, BX45.

“The red dot was on him. I fired shots and there was no immediate reaction. I carried on firing until I had to deal with the third threat of Youssef Zaghba who was on top of me.”

“I was backing away trying to create a reactionary gap when I fired and fell backwards. As I fell backwards I fired and from the floor, I fired through my legs up to his chest. I thought he was about to kill me.”

The eight victims killed in the London Bridge attack

BX44 says he then kicked Zaghba’s hand away from his chest, fearing he would detonate the suicide vest.

Minutes after the first burst of gunfire, he told the court he saw Butt’s chest rise and fall and his arms “move down slowly towards the suicide vest”.

“I thought he was going to detonate,” BX44 added. “I fired shots. They were aimed shots.”

BX44, who fired 17 shots, went on to help in a search for a fourth possible attacker, carried a woman having a seizure to safety and found three people in a cupboard during a search of the nearby Black and Blue restaurant.

BX46 says he had seen Butt moving his head off the ground as he lay injured and shot him in the head.

“I used lethal force to avert the danger of him detonating his device,” he added. “I took an aimed shot to his head.”

BX46 says he discharged six rounds from his Heckler & Koch G36 carbine in total.

A man standing in a pub next to where the shooting took place was inadvertently stuck in the head by a stray bullet but survived, the court heard.

Butt, 27, Redouane, 30, and Zaghba, 22, had killed eight victims and injured 48 more in a 10-minute rampage using a van and knives.

The inquests into the attackers’ deaths continue

Additional reporting by PA

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