London Bombing Inquest Findings May Suggest Emergency Service, MI5 Changes
Quicker rescue by emergency services wouldn’t have saved the 52 victims of the July 7, 2005, suicide attacks in London, a coroner said.
Justice Heather Hallett formally ruled that the victims were “unlawfully killed,” ending an inquest that began in October. While she didn’t conclude that failures by emergency- service and security personnel led to any of the deaths, she made nine recommended changes for such agencies to consider.
“I am satisfied, on the balance of probabilities, that each one of them would have died whatever time the emergency services had reached and rescued them,” Hallett said.
Three suicide bombers set off explosions on underground trains in central London during the morning rush hour of July 7, 2005. An hour after the first explosions, a fourth bomber set off a device on a bus. The attack was carried out by four British-born Muslims of Pakistani origin led by 30-year-old Mohammed Siddique Khan.
Hallett’s recommendations include a request that MI5, the U.K.’s domestic security agency, review its procedures for showing photos of suspects to detainees. During the inquest MI5 was criticized for using poorly reproduced images. She also said there should be more cooperative training among emergency services on dealing with major incidents and that first-aid equipment should be kept on underground trains.
Adam Chapman, a lawyer representing the families of seven victims, said he agreed with the coroner’s conclusion that failures by the emergency services didn’t lead to deaths.
“There were serious faults on the day. In particular, the London ambulance service was completely overwhelmed,” he said, yet “by luck rather than judgment” that didn’t lead to deaths because one of the blasts took place next to the headquarters of the British Medical Association and another near a hospital, so doctors were on hand to treat the injured.
A coroner’s inquest can only come to a limited number of verdicts: death by accident, suicide, unlawful killing, lawful killing, industrial disease or an “open verdict” if there isn’t enough evidence for the others. A coroner is also entitled to write a report suggesting steps to avoid deaths in future.
The bombings were the deadliest attack on the U.K. since World War II and Europe’s first suicide attack. In total 56 people were killed, including the bombers. Seven died on a tube train at Aldgate station in East London, 26 died on a train in the tunnel between King’s Cross and Russell Square. Six died on a train at Edgware Road station and 13 died on a bus on Tavistock Square, near Russell Square.
“The government supported and cooperated with the inquest throughout and will carefully consider the coroner’s recommendations,” Prime Minister David Cameron’s spokeswoman Vickie Sheriff told reporters in London today. “We are always looking to learn lessons and to improve the response to the terrorist threat we face.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said she hoped the conclusion of the inquest would bring comfort to survivors and victims’ families.
“I am pleased that the coroner has made clear there is simply no evidence that the Security Service knew of, and therefore failed to prevent, the bombings on 7/7,” she said in an e-mailed statement.
Hallett, who has been hearing the inquest without a jury as is normal in the U.K., has been considering her verdict since she stopped taking evidence March 13. Hallett took testimony from 309 witnesses over 75 days of hearings spread over five- and-a-half months, according to the website for the inquest.
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