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London Bridge terror attack: Pavements left 'wide open' despite Westminster atrocity three months earlier, lawyer says

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 11/01/2019 Gareth Davies
A tow truck removes a van, rear, as forensic police collect evidence in the London Bridge area © AP A tow truck removes a van, rear, as forensic police collect evidence in the London Bridge area

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

Gareth Patterson QC, who is representing six families of victims of the June 2017 attack, set out his key concerns ahead of a full inquest at the Old Bailey starting on May 7.

He will also lament the apparent lack of security measures in place at rental companies, saying that no lessons had been learned from the Westminster attack in which four people were killed by a terrorist in a hire car. 

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Mr Patterson criticised the lack of barriers on the bridge at the time of the attack, coming so soon after the Westminster attack in March.

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 inbetween the two attacks.

A couple embrace as they pause to look at flowers left by well-wishers on London Bridge © Getty A couple embrace as they pause to look at flowers left by well-wishers on London Bridge

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

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

The victims were Canadian Christine Archibald, 30, and 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.

A postcard is placed between flowers on a memorial for victims in the London Bridge area © AP A postcard is placed between flowers on a memorial for victims in the London Bridge area

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.

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

Mr 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.

Mr Patterson was speaking following a final pre-inquest hearing at the Old Bailey updating Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC on the preparations and police investigation.

Two women embrace in front of a floral tribute in the London Bridge area © AP Two women embrace in front of a floral tribute in the London Bridge area

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."

Mr 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."

Mr 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.

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

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