NEWS
11/01/2019 14:11 GMT

London Bridge Pavements Were ‘Wide Open’ Before Terror Attack, Lawyer Says

No barriers were put up despite a similar attack in Westminster three months before.

Agence-France Presse

A lawyer has criticised the lack of action before the London Bridge terror attack, saying pavements were “wide open” despite a similar atrocity three months earlier.

Eight people were killed when three men ploughed into pedestrians in a white van on the bridge, before launching a frenzied knife attack in nearby Borough market with 12in (30cm) ceramic knives on 3 June 2017.

The victims were Canadian Christine Archibald, 30, Frenchmen Xavier Thomas, 45, and Alexandre Pigeard, 26, as well as Sara Zelenak, 21, Kirsty Boden, 28, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39.

The attackers, Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, were shot dead by police at the scene.

The incident came just three months after Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in a hired car before stabbing a police officer to death.

SIPA USA/PA Images

Ahead of a full inquest at the Old Bailey starting on 7 May, Gareth Patterson QC, who is representing six families of victims, set out his key concerns, which include the lack of barriers on the bridge at the time of the attack and the ease of which the attackers were able to rent the van they used.

Patterson was speaking following a final pre-inquest hearing updating chief coroner Mark Lucraft QC on the preparations and police investigation.

He said: “The pavements of London Bridge were wide open, despite what happened at Westminster.”

In the autumn, the Westminster inquest was told that no consideration was given at the time to putting up barriers in between the two attacks.

Yet within a day of the London Bridge atrocity, work began to put up barriers, Patterson said.

PA Archive/PA Images
Barriers have been put up on London Bridge following the attack.

One of the victims on the bridge was Archibald, who was walking on the pavement with her fiancé, having just had a meal, when she was knocked down and killed almost instantly.

Patterson also said there was an “apparent failure to have any sort of regulation or security checks by rental businesses where they are renting out powerful vehicles which can be used as lethal weapons”.

“We have had them used in terrorist attack after terrorist attack.”

The lawyer pointed out that rental vehicles were also used to cause carnage in Nice and Berlin.

The barrister said Butt was under investigation by security services yet was still able to plan and carry out the attack with his accomplices.

He said it was a “very troubling and a significant issue” which he plans to pursue at the inquest. 

PA Archive/PA Images
The van used in the attack.

During the hearing, Jonathan Hough QC, counsel to the coroner, said: “We understand the families have concerns about the lack of barriers on the bridge, this attack coming after the Westminster attack.

“We can assure (them) this is a topic which will be pursued.”

Patterson responded: “I’m grateful appropriate witnesses will be called, and equally the vehicle rental issue.

“The issues that arose in Westminster seemed to have resulted in absolutely nothing by way of additional measures on rentals by people preparing attacks.”

Hough said the counter-terrorism police had taken 2,701 statements and seized “vast” amounts of CCTV footage of the attacks and the terrorists’ movements.

Other evidence included body-worn video from police officers and videos from members of the public caught up in the carnage.

Hough said extensive work had been done by forensic experts on the attackers’ vehicle, the knives used and petrol bombs found in the aftermath.