Student victim bridge attack: there, people
ASURVIVOR of the Westminster terrorist attack has described the “sick reaction” of bystanders who stopped to take gory pictures rather than help.
The images taken with mobiles and selfie sticks were then posted on social media, compounding the misery of victims’ families, the Old Bailey heard.
Gareth Patterson, QC, representing families of the victims on the bridge, said graphic pictures of Aysha Frade’s body beneath the wheels of a bus caused “real distress to the family”.
He said it showed a “rather shocking disregard” for the dignity of casualties, adding: “Despite efforts to have them taken down because of the distress caused, to this day there are images on the internet.”
People also took snaps of Romanian interior designer Andreea Cristea as she lay face down and unconscious in the Thames for five minutes, the inquest was told.
As well as the four fatalities on the bridge, 29 others suffered serious injuries from being struck by Khalid Masood’s hired SUV.
Travis Frain, 20, a student at Edge Hill University in Ormskirk, was among the injured not called to give evidence at the inquest.
In an interview with the Press Association, he said: “I remember almost immediately, after I was hit by the car, there were lines of people in the windows of the bus filming and taking pictures and video.
“It was not nice. I would like to think most people would help but I think in this day and age the natural reaction for a lot of people is to get out your camera and start filming.
“It’s a bit of a sick reaction. It’s not everyone. There were some amazing people who ran over to help us and the people on the bus would not have been able to get off the bus.
“I think personally I would not just sit there as a spectator taking videos.”
Mr Frain also received death threats and abuse from online trolls, apparently sparked by footage of him hobbling away, despite suffering a broken leg.
He said: “Over the course of the last year and a half, I received a number of messages from different people, different accounts. The worst ones were at the start. I received a couple of death threats saying they were going to hang me and they know where I live.
“Some said the attack was fake and we were all paid actors and some said the attack was real.
“Another was sent to my place of work, saying, ‘this man has faked being in a terror attack. I’m going to release the evidence soon. If you do not fire him it will affect your business relations. It would look bad’.
“I have consistently told people that, after being hit by the car, I got up and walked off. Paramedics put it down to adrenaline. I had a broken leg and I just hobbled off.”
Mr Frain said he reported the death threat to police but no-one had been charged.
On the effect of the abuse, he said: “Colleagues just came up to me and said jokingly ‘it looks like you’ve got a bit of a nut job here, we felt you ought to see it anyway’. It does feel uneasy. People are probably not going to believe them, but what if somebody does question it?”
The history and politics student said he had made reports to Facebook and blocked abusers on Twitter, although the material was still “out there”.
Lawyer Jill Greenfield, head of personal injury at Fieldfisher, is representing Ms Cristea’s boyfriend Andrei Burnaz and others whose lives have been shattered by the events of March 22 last year.
She said: “What has, at times, been the most despicable behaviour illustrates the worst side of social media by providing a platform to air derogatory comments.
“Such comments and the arbitrary use of personal information perpetuates the trauma for those already suffering the atrocity of terrorism.
“Terrorism works on enough levels of harm without social media adding to that pain.”
She added: “Our client Andrei Burnaz was extremely upset when the press ransacked his and Andreea’s Facebook accounts and published personal pictures and information.”
None of the graphic CCTV or pictures shown at the Old Bailey inquest was released to the public.