West­min­ster at­tack sur­vivors fear they will not be heard at in­quest

Few of the 50 in­jured were asked to tes­tify at the Old Bai­ley hear­ing

The Observer - - News - Mark Townsend Home Af­fairs Editor

Sur­vivors of the West­min­ster ter­ror at­tack last March claim they have been “air­brushed” from the in­quest into its five vic­tims, which opened last week.

Travis Frain, 20, said that hardly any of the at­tack’s 50 sur­vivors had been in­vited to of­fer ev­i­dence at the in­quest at the Old Bai­ley, leav­ing many to claim that vi­tal tes­ti­mony will be omit­ted.

Khalid Ma­sood, 52, ran down and killed four peo­ple af­ter plough­ing a car into pedes­tri­ans on West­min­ster Bridge on 22 March last year, then stabbed a po­lice of­fi­cer to death.

Frain, who suf­fered mul­ti­ple in­juries, in­clud­ing a bro­ken leg, af­ter be­ing struck by Ma­sood’s ve­hi­cle, said: “It seems that if you were in­jured, your tes­ti­mony is some­how worth less. It seems bizarre, it’s like air­brush­ing our ac­counts from the one op­por­tu­nity for them to be made pub­lic.”

His dis­quiet has fed into broader con­cerns from the dozens of in­jured sur­vivors that they have been ig­nored by politi­cians but also treated dif­fer­ently to those caught up in other 2017 ter­ror at­tacks, such as Lon­don Bridge and the sui­cide bomb­ing at an Ari­ana Grande con­cert at Manch­ester Arena.

Frain, who was vis­ited by Prince Charles when in hos­pi­tal, said that the ap­proach to the sur­vivors by Andy Burn­ham, the mayor of Greater Manch­ester, was starkly dif­fer­ent to the one shown by his Lon­don coun­ter­part, Sadiq Khan.

“We have yet to have a sin­gle politi- cian of any party meet with us,” Frain said. “It seems re­ally weird: there’s been no let­ter, no cor­re­spon­dence at all from the Lon­don mayor … I’ve spo­ken to quite a few sur­vivors of the Manch­ester at­tack and they’ve jok­ingly said they’ve got Burn­ham’s mo­bile num­ber on speed dial.”

Frain, a trustee of the Tim Parry Johnathan Ball Peace Foun­da­tion, which sup­ports sur­vivors of ter­ror­ism, added: “The at­tack was such a big event but it hasn’t been treated that way by the peo­ple who quite of­ten like to make a big thing of talk­ing about such events.”

Ac­cord­ing to Frain, only sur­vivors who are be­reaved have been in­vited to give ev­i­dence at the in­quest, and even some of them have voiced con­cerns over the process.

An­drei Bur­naz, whose girl­friend An­dreea Cris­tea, 31, died af­ter be­ing struck by Ma­sood’s car and thrown into the Thames, and who de­liv­ered his wit­ness ac­count to the in­quest on Thurs­day, told the Ob­server that de­spite trav­el­ling from Ro­ma­nia to give ev­i­dence, he did not think he had been use­ful to the pro­ceed­ings or that the process had been cathar­tic.

“I am just not sure how help­ful I was to the in­quest, or how help­ful the in­quest was to me,” Bur­naz said. He also re­vealed he had paid for his flight from Bucharest, his Lon­don ho­tel and liv­ing costs out of his own pocket, hav­ing ini­tially not been told that he could claim the ex­penses back.

Frain, from Dar­wen, Lan­cashire, said that there was con­fu­sion among other sur­vivors over the cost of at­tend­ing the in­quest, which is sched­uled to run un­til next month.

“I know of oth­ers who were in­jured who just can’t af­ford to travel down the coun­try for the in­quest, but they re­ally want to find out what hap­pened that day and see the CCTV for them­selves, or meet other vic­tims be­cause they haven’t had the chance to do that.”

Sur­vivors are also con­cerned about the fail­ure to have an of­fi­cial com­mem­o­ra­tion for all those caught up in the West­min­ster at­tack.

“Ap­par­ently, they con­sulted the be­reaved but didn’t con­sult those who sur­vived. We’d have liked to have been asked about this. On the anniversary I went to the bridge and there was an im­promptu gath­er­ing of peo­ple af­fected by the at­tack – about 20 of us – who just formed a gath­er­ing. We didn’t know each other be­fore that.

“But there were peo­ple walking by, cars pass­ing, the bridge wasn’t closed, it was like a reg­u­lar day. The irony, the real kick in the gut, was that there was a ser­vice hap­pen­ing nearby in par­lia­ment that was only for MPs and lords to at­tend.”

Siân Jones of Bir­cham Dyson Bell, one of the so­lic­i­tors to the in­quest, said: “We have se­lected for these in­quests the wit­nesses who can best give ev­i­dence as to the last move­ments of the de­ceased or their im­me­di­ate af­ter­care.”

PA

Prince Charles vis­it­ing Travis Frain in hos­pi­tal two days af­ter last year’s at­tack.

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