Witnesses describe night of terror near London Bridge
Issued on: Modified:
At least seven people were killed on Saturday night as three men drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge and then went on a stabbing spree. Witnesses recounted scenes of horror and confusion before police quickly shot the attackers dead.
An eyewitness, identified simply as Mark by BBC radio, was in the middle of London Bridge taking pictures of the iconic Tower Bridge, when the mayhem began at around 10.07 pm UK time.
"[A van] was swerving from side to side. I could see it hitting people," he said, describing how some of the people struck by the speeding vehicle were thrown into the air.
Another man, Alessandro, gave a similar description of the van attack, in which the terrorists apparently aimed for groups of people on the bridge.
"I saw this van going left and right, left and right, trying to catch as many people as he could," he told BBC radio. "There were five or six people that we tried to help, they were young people."
Men emerge from van
Witness Eric saw the trio get out of the van and thought they were going to help those who had been hit.
However, they started "kicking them, punching them, and took out knives. It was a rampage," he told the local LBC radio station. They then ran towards Borough Market, shouting "this is for Allah", Eric said.
An unnamed taxi driver also recalled seeing the men emerge from the van with long knives drawn before they, "went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people."
Gerard Vowles was on the street near the Southwark Tavern pub, the scene of multiple stabbings, when he heard someone say: "I've been stabbed, I've been stabbed."
"I thought they were joking," he told the UK’s Sky TV. He said he then saw a woman and man being stabbed while the attackers shouted: "This is for Allah".
Vowles said he tried to distract the men by calling them “cowards!” and throwing objects at them.
"I was just trying to get their attention by throwing things at them ... I thought if I throw bottles or chairs they can come after me. If I can get them to come to the main road then the police can stop them, they can obviously shoot them," he added.
By then, news of the stabbings had spread like wildfire across the normally bustling neighbourhood known for its nightlife.
Another witness, who declined to be named, told Reuters of the scenes of panic in the bar he was in.
London bridge bar now. Police everywhere pic.twitter.com/0gWH9jhgdX— James Yates (@Yatesy17) June 3, 2017
"They hit the emergency alarm. There was a line of people going down to the emergency exit. And then people started screaming coming back up," he recounted, with his white top still covered in blood.
He recalled how a doctor in the pub helped one of the victims from another nearby bar by putting “pressure on the stab wound".
Gerard Kavanar, 46, who lives by Tower Bridge, told AFP that he saw "a lot of chefs in white costumes, one had blood on his shoulder".
Police held people inside bars and restaurants for their own safety, telling them to get under the tables.
BBC radio said witnesses saw people throwing tables and chairs at the attackers to protect themselves.
One witness, who only gave the BBC his first name of Ben, said he saw one of the knifemen who was dressed in red. After “coldly” stabbing a male victim, the attacker walked towards the Southwark Tavern pub where a chair was thrown at him, Ben said.
Simon Thompson told Sky News that he was just outside Borough Market when he saw the crowds fleeing.
"We ran for like 100 meters and then saw loads of police cars turn up and there was kind of a period of quite intense gunfire," he said. "I hid in a restaurant basement for about an hour ... Police told us to get out and then there was more gunfire."
Photographer Gabriele Sciotto, 25, said he was on his way home from the pub when he saw a man running towards him. The man told him to turn around and run because there was a terrorist attack.
But Sciotto said that at first he dismissed the warning as "it didn't look too dangerous" and he continued on his way.
Then he saw the terrorists.
The photographer said the attackers ran toward the Wheatsheaf Pub after being confronted by a police officer and then more police arrived from the other direction.
He said that it looked like the terrorists, "had no clue what they were doing. They were scared."
After the men were shot dead at around 10.15 pm, Sciotto captured a photo of the suspect on the ground wearing what appears to be canisters strapped to his chest.
Roy Smith, a police officer who was at the scene during the unfolding bloodshed, expressed his shock on Twitter.
"Started shift taking photos with children playing on the South Bank. Ended it giving CPR to innocent victims attacked at London Bridge," he wrote.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS, AFP, AP)