Reports of people fighting off attackers with bottles and chairs during terror incidents in London Bridge and Borough Market
This article titled “‘It was a rampage’: witnesses describe horror of London terrorist attacks” was written by Alexandra Topping, Bonnie Malkin and Ben Doherty, for theguardian.com on Sunday 4th June 2017 09.10 UTC
Witnesses of the London Bridge and Borough Market attacks have described the horrific events that unfolded shortly after 10pm on a busy Saturday night.
Those caught up in the attack – many of whom were in central London for dinner, or watching the Champions League final in bars – described scenes of chaos and horror.
They described a van swerving wildly on London Bridge, driving into pedestrians. When it stopped, rear doors were opened and several men jumped out before running into bars around the popular and busy area and stabbing people out to enjoy the evening. Witnesses described desperately throwing bottles and chairs at the attackers in an attempt to stop them.
Bethany Atkin, who works for the Guardian, was at Boro Bistro, a small restaurant which sits under a small bridge on Borough High Street.
“We were sitting outside under umbrellas underneath the bridge and there was a shower of rubble that landed on the umbrellas, a van had crashed into the bridge.
“We stood up, everyone was moving, I saw a man who was bleeding. I don’t know how he was injured. We ran into the restaurant and tried to find a safe place but there wasn’t one.”
Running back outside, Atkin saw another casualty. “We saw a woman with blood, about 20 metres from the bridge. I saw her lying down on the floor.”
Atkin ran into London Bridge hospital to shelter but there was another commotion on the street. “A man was shouting and then everyone started screaming and running away from the man. It was very sinister.”
At 10.08pm the Metropolitan police were alerted to an incident unfolding on London Bridge – they said suspects had been confronted and shot by the police within eight minutes of the first call.
A man called Mark told the BBC he was taking photographs on London Bridge when he saw the van hitting pedestrians on the bridge.
“It was swerving from side to side and I could see it hitting people and there was a group about 20 or 30 yards in front of me. The van hit those people. At that moment I was doing that calculation of trying to work out which direction should I run.”
Will Heaven, a Spectator journalist, was passing the bridge. He told Sky News: “It was about 10 past 10. I was in the back of an Uber cab driving south over London Bridge.
“Suddenly on the left-hand side, on the bridge, there was somebody down on the pavement with a small crowd around them, clearly concerned. I thought someone had collapsed. We drove a little further over the bridge. There was another person in the road itself. The penny dropped that something quite serious was happening.
“The traffic came to a standstill. The Uber driver said something bad is happening here. We could hear sirens coming.
“A driver of a black cab said there has been a terrorist attack. They saw there were numerous people in the road. A second cab driver said there has been a series of stabbings.”
‘A lot of blood and bodies’
A 25-year-old man, who wishes to remain anonymous, told the Guardian he was driving across the bridge when he saw a man and a pregnant woman unconscious on the road.
“We thought it was a car accident but as we got closer we could see a lot of blood and bodies. There was a pregnant woman on the right who was severely injured and on the left there was a man being resuscitated, but he started breathing. We don’t know whether the woman survived,” he said.
“We had to get out of the car and there were lots of people screaming. And then ambulances arrived.”
‘The guy with the knife was killing two people’
It very quickly became clear that the attack was not over. Witnesses described attackers running into pubs and bars around London Bridge stabbing people.
Another witness, Eric, told the BBC: “Three men jumped out of the van and that’s when they started attacking people on the road. As they headed down the stairs, as they were running towards the people, they were shouting, ‘This is for Allah’.
Gerard Vowls, 47, had been watching the Champions League final at the Ship pub in Borough. He was at the start of the south side of London Bridge and saw a woman being stabbed by three men 10 or 15 times.
“She was going, ‘Help me, help me’ and I couldn’t do nothing,” he said. “I want to know if this girl is still alive. I’ve been walking around for an hour and a half crying my eyes out. I don’t know what to do.”
Vowls said he was throwing chairs, glasses and bottles at the attackers in a bid to stop them.
“They kept coming to try to stab me … they were stabbing everyone. Evil, evil people.”
It took at least 10 minutes for armed police to reach the scene, he added.
“They literally just started kicking them, punching them, they took out knives. It was a rampage really,” another man told the BBC. The group of attackers headed towards Southwark Cathedral.
“A woman was staring at them, and they started stabbing her,” the witness said. “Throughout the whole way across the bridge, there were people littered across bleeding. People were trying to help each other.”
A few hundred metres away, panic hit Borough Market. Men brandishing knives jumped from the van that crashed near Brindisa restaurant and began stabbing people.
One eyewitnesses spoke of seeing one attacker stab his victim “calmly”. Ben was coming up to the entrance of the underground on Borough High Street when they saw people running.
“I saw a man in red with quite a large blade, I don’t know the measurement I guess maybe 10 inches. He was stabbing a man… he stabbed him about three times fairly calmly.
“It looked [like] the man had maybe been trying to intervene but there wasn’t much that he could do, he was being stabbed quite coldly and he slumped to the ground.
The attacker and another man walked off quite “boldly”.
“A table was thrown, a bottle was thrown at the individual with the knife and then we heard three gunshots and we ran,” he added.
Alex was in the Mudlark pub, close to Southwark Cathedral. “A woman probably in her early 20s staggered into the pub and she was bleeding heavily from the neck and from her mouth. It appeared to myself and to my friends that her throat had been cut,” he said. “People went to her aid. The pub was then closed. We saw police on the roads nearby. As we were told to leave the area by armed police, as we were running away from there, I could see to my left there was a further individual having CPR performed on them by the emergency services.”
Another witness in the Mudlark, 54-year-old Jeff Whitsey, told reporters the woman, aged in her 20s, staggered into the pub, aided by her friends. She was seriously injured.
“It was a very deep cut. There was blood everywhere … blood was spurting out. It was awful. Absolutely awful.”
Owen Evans, 39, was in the Wheatsheaf pub nearby on Stoney Street with friends when shooting broke out.
“I was in the back of the pub. A wave of about 30 people ran in and tried to get into the cellar or cupboard. Then there were shots outside. They didn’t seem real – like a kid letting off firecrackers. We saw police lights and everyone got down under a table. People turned tables over.
“We waited about 10 minutes or so, with several shots every couple of minutes. Someone at the front of the pub had been shot – it’s speculation but we thought it was by accident, there were bullet holes in the windows. The people near the person called for a medic, shouting: ‘He’s fucking bleeding to death, we need a doctor.’ The bar staff were amazing, I think they locked the door so no one got in.
“Then they told us to leave the pub and to run, and a policeman standing outside with a gun was shouting, ‘Go, get the fuck out.’ We ran down the street, turned left at the Market Porter, then ran down the road and away. We got to the South Bank and then waited ages for a tube, and eventually got home.”
Videos show police going into bars soon after the attack telling people to remain on the floor. Police boats also searched the river – apparently looking for people who may have been thrown off the bridge.
At the El Pastor tapas restaurant also on Stoney Street, a man entered with a “foot-long” knife and started stabbing a woman, one witness told Sky News.
People inside were throwing bottles and chairs at the man to try to stop him. “They saw four others also armed with knives outside the restaurant in Borough Market.”
There were also reports of attackers at Roast restaurant.
A chef from Fish restaurant said: “I saw two men with big knives downstairs outside Roast. They were stabbing people. The police were running away, they were normal officers, they were running away.
“The guy with the knife was killing two people. We were shouting ‘stop, stop’ and people threw chairs at them.”
Video from the inside of the Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House restaurant on Stoney Street showed staff shouting at customers to evacuate and directing them to run away from the building down the street.
Jamie, who was in the Black and Blue restaurant further down Stoney Street, said he hid under the tables after hearing “a massive, massive bang”.
“People came into the restaurant and knocked a bunch of stuff over, like the till,” he said. “And then we ran into the restaurant into the kitchen, where there was a bunch of other people and a guy had been stabbed and he was cut and he was bleeding quite a lot.”
Tomasina Lebus, who had been at the Omeara music venue, described how she and others who had been at the venue when the attack happened spent seven hours locked inside.
“Thankfully Londoners are incredible people and everyone there stood strong, calm and together while locked in at the venue for the past seven hours, with little information, until the police cleared the area for us to leave while the sun came up,” she wrote on Instagram. “There isn’t enough praise for those police on the ground tonight ensuring civilians safety and protection. We must stay strong and stand together.”
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