POLICE shot dead the Muslim ringleader of the London Bridge terror attacks as he lay handcuffed on the ground because they feared he was about to detonate a suicide vest, an inquest has been told.
At least one of the London Bridge attackers was handcuffed as they were lying wounded on the ground before more shots were fired, an inquest has heard.
The three terrorists murdered eight people by driving into pedestrians and going on a stabbing rampage before they were themselves killed by armed response officers who feared they were wearing explosive vests.
Tim Andrews, a constable who responded in plain clothes on the evening of 3 June 2017, said he was on Stoney Street, in Borough Market, when the attackers were gunned down by armed police officers.
He told the Old Bailey inquest into the attacks: “One of the officers was shouting: ‘Cuffs, cuffs’. The attacker was on the floor, sort of outside the Wheatsheaf pub and the officer had just sort of withdrawn slightly. He [the attacker] had his hands clenched on his chest, he was covered in blood. He was groaning and moving his eyes.”
Andrews, who was awarded a Queen’s police medal for his actions on that night, said on Thursday he did as he was told, putting the cuffs on the man’s clenched hands. As he did so he noticed what he thought was a suicide belt.
“There was a belt around his waist,” he told the court. “On the brown belt, there appeared to be some plastic bottles.”
Andrews said he told of the belt to the firearms officer who had given him the instruction to handcuff the man, and the officer ordered everyone to get back. Andrews told the court one of his colleagues had been moving to handcuff the other two attackers on the instructions of another firearms officer but he did not see whether he did so before being instructed to back away.
Simon Edwards told the court he was watching events from the window of the Wheatsheaf pub, which one of the attackers, Khuram Butt, had tried to smash his way into moments earlier, when the shots rang out.
CCTV images from the pub showed smoke just beyond Edwards from a police bullet that struck Neil McLelland in the head, having missed Edwards by centimetres. Seconds later, Edwards told the court, he opened the pub door to try to get help for McLelland.
“Directly in front of me there was the guy in the Arsenal top [Butt] on his back … He was lying down. I remember him being handcuffed and his legs were moving, they were twitching. I was shouting at the police to get me a paramedic. They were shouting at me to get back in the pub. I was fearful that, because he [McLelland] had a head injury, every second was critical.”
When he went back into the pub, Edwards, who had been injured by shrapnel, heard another volley of shots before opening the pub door again. Referring to Butt, he told the inquest: “I don’t recall seeing him move that time.”
The inquest has previously been told by Det Supt Rebecca Riggs, of Scotland Yard’s counter terrorism command, that the armed officers fired more shots at Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, because “they could see they were moving, they believed they were going to activate explosive devices they were wearing so they fired further shots”. Video shown in court showed Redouane still moving before officers fired again.
The eight victims were Chrissy Archibald, 30, from Canada; Sebastien Belanger, 36, a chef; Kirsty Boden, 28, a nurse from Australia; Ignacio Echeverría Miralles De Imperial, 39; James McMullan, 32, the only Briton, who was from Brent, north-west London; Alexandre Pigeard, 26, a French restaurant worker; Xavier Thomas, 45, a French national and Sara Zelenak, 21, an Australian national.
The inquest continues.