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London Bridge survivor hid near victim during attack

The Guardian logo The Guardian 4 days ago Haroon Siddique
a person posing for the camera: James McMullan, one of the victims of the London Bridge terrorist attack. © PA James McMullan, one of the victims of the London Bridge terrorist attack.

A man has told an inquest into the London Bridge terror attack that he cowered in an alleyway by the body of a stabbing victim as he feared the attackers were coming for him.

Andrius Vorobjovas said he had hidden beside James McMullan, 32, the only British person to have been killed in in the attack, who was lying in the corner of an alleyway close to Boro Bistro, where Vorobjovas had been drinking with friends on the evening of 3 June 2017.

McMullan, from Brent, north-west London, is believed to have been stabbed as he stopped to help Sara Zelenak, 21, an Australian au pair, who was also fatally wounded by the terrorists.

Vorobjovas said he had heard a loud bang from above, on Borough High Street, when the van the attackers were using as a weapon crashed into railings, raining debris on people sitting below at tables outside Boro Bistro.

He saw a man waving a “bloody blade” and there was panic all around him, he told the Old Bailey on Wednesday.

“I could just hear the tables moving, glass smashing, people running in every direction they could,” said Vorobjovas, who said he had hurdled over some flowerpots to escape. “I nearly stepped on a person who was lying on his belly,” he said. “I was very shocked and amazed to see someone there as I couldn’t see how someone could end up there.”

He said he had hidden for about 30 seconds beside McMullan, during which he had not seen any signs of life. Vorobjovas said he had not checked on McMullan’s condition because he “thought the individuals were coming. I just folded down on my knees, tried to hide behind the flowerbed. I was virtually sitting touching him as I was bending over hiding.”

He said he had fled up the steps on to London Bridge and started to make his way home until armed officers directed him and others back to the courtyard.

There has been no explanation of how McMullan ended up in the alleyway below London Bridge after he helped Zelenak. It has been suggested she slipped and fell on the pavement of Borough High Street while wearing high heels as people fled the terrorists. Gareth Patterson QC, representing six of the eight victims’ families, said McMullan had no injuries suggesting he had fallen from above.

The court heard McMullan had been caught up in the attacks after he was refused re-entry into a pub where he had been watching the Champions League final.

He was in the Barrowboy and Banker with five friends, including John Dowd, who said McMullan had gone outside after a trip to the toilet. “I believe he called my friend Andrew … that he was unable to get back in the pub so he’d meet us downstairs [at the Boro Bistro].”

Dowd said he never saw his friend again. As he and the others were preparing to leave and join McMullan 10 to 15 minutes later, an alarm went off and they were prevented from departing.

They were eventually evacuated through a fire escape at the back of the pub, which led down into the courtyard outside Boro Bistro, and he saw a body there. “I was worried about James so I went to get closer and look,” he said. “It wasn’t James.” That man is now known to be Alexandre Pigeard, 26, a French national, who, like McMullan, was fatally wounded.

Dowd said the next day he went round hospitals with other friends of McMullan seeking information about his fate. It was the Monday morning after the attack that McMullan’s sister Melissa sent a WhatsApp message saying that a card identifying her brother had been found and he was believed to be dead.

The others killed were Chrissy Archibald, 30, from Canada, Kirsty Boden, 28, a nurse from Australia, Sebastien Belanger, 36, a chef from France, Ignacio Echeverría Miralles de Imperial, 39, a Spanish financial analyst, and Xavier Thomas, 45, a French national.

The inquest continues.

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