Verdicts due on London bombings inquests

5th May 2011, Comments 0 comments

The exhaustive inquests into the London bombings are to deliver their verdicts on Friday, with the outcome all the more poignant following the death of terror chief Osama bin Laden.

The July 7, 2005 attacks on London's transport network killed 52 commuters and were perpetrated by four Islamist suicide bombers, two of whom appeared in video statements spliced with footage of Al-Qaeda number two Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Judge Heather Hallett's verdicts are expected to set out how each victim died and make recommendations arising out of the six months of evidence heard.

Many victims' relatives are hoping the verdicts will bring a degree of closure on the worst terror atrocity on British soil.

But observers will be watching to see what Hallett says about whether the security services could have prevented the attack, and her view of the emergency services' response.

Robert Webb, whose sister Laura, 29, was killed in the Edgware Road train blast, said bin Laden's death had come at a difficult time.

She survived briefly after the explosion, despite being the second closest to bomber Mohammed Sidique Khan. Several passengers tried in vain to save her.

"It is going to be a very strange and difficult week, first with this (news of bin Laden) and then with the inquest results," Webb told the South Wales Echo newspaper.

"A number of people should share responsibility for what happened in London and clearly he is one of them.

"He has inspired fanatics who target other human beings and in that respect he is as responsible as anyone else."

The inquests heard in distressing detail about each victim's final moments, pieced together from eyewitness and forensic evidence. Many were not killed instantly, evidence showed.

Some 309 witnesses gave evidence and a further 197 statements were read. The hearings generated 34,000 documents.

Chilling footage of the devastation was also shown in public for the first time -- slow-moving, silent video from inside the Underground trains, revealing the bloody, scorched wreckage.

Recordings of a flurry of phone calls to the emergency services were played, gradually revealing the devastation wreaked by the bombing of three Underground trains and a bus.

The inquests also heard of extraordinary acts of heroism from commuters caught up in the blasts, putting their own lives in danger to help keep others alive.

Graphics were used to illustrate the positions of passengers, showing how some close to the bombers survived, while others further away were killed.

New details emerged about the bombers -- ringleader Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Hasib Hussain and Germaine Lindsay. They were all British, the first three being of Pakistani origin.

Khan received a series of calls from phone boxes in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi days before the attacks.

His will showed he apologised to his wife for lying, saying he was doing it to please God, and told his baby daughter that leaving her behind was the hardest part.

Tanweer had a secret girlfriend whom he saw days before the attack.

The bombers posed as characters from 1980s cult television show "The A-Team" in jokey text messages and may have planned on striking the day before.

Jennifer Cole, head of emergency management at the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, called for the government to appoint an emergency services minister with overarching responsibility so that the inquest outcomes are not simply "noted and filed".

"The unprecedented level of scrutiny at the coroner's inquests can help ensure that the lives lost were not completely in vain," she said.

The verdicts will be given from 10:00am (0900 GMT) at the Royal Courts of Justice in central London.

The attacks unleashed a wave of unease in Britain about the threat of extremism in Britain linked to Pakistan.

© 2011 AFP

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