The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Leave me now! Go and save yourself
Stabbed four times. His life draining away. Terrorists on the rampage. But brave victim told policewoman who rushed to aid...
SLUMPED on a pavement, slipping in and out of consciousness, Brett Freeman heard gunshots behind him.
Panic-stricken crowds stampeded, and a ‘look of fear’ spread across the face of the British Transport policewoman kneeling at his side. Brett, 32, had been stabbed four times in the back by one of the London Bridge terrorists, with one of the wounds puncturing his lung. Life was draining from his body.
‘We didn’t know if it was the terrorists or the police firing,’ says Brett, the father of three young children. ‘We were petrified. I said to the policewoman, “Leave me now – go and save yourself.”’
Yet with chaos unfolding around them, the officer, Emily Lewis, displaying fortitude that has characterised the emergency services response to the outrage, refused to let go of his hand. She would remain with Brett for a further two hours, until he was safely inside King’s College Hospital in South London where doctors saved his life.
‘If it wasn’t for Emily, who kept me talking, who wouldn’t leave me, I might not have reached hospital alive,’ says Brett, in an interview with The Mail on Sunday.
‘I could see how scared she was – we all were – but she didn’t think of her own safety.’
Emily, in turn, is full of praise for the way Brett himself coped. She wrote on Facebook: ‘He was so brave and selfless and didn’t stop joking the whole time! I’m so glad he is OK.’
Now recovering from his wounds back at home with his fiancee Amy, 32, who is expecting their fourth child next month, and sons Freddy, nine, Billy, seven and one-year-old Tom, Brett told how he ended up in London Bridge by chance after a day out with friends at Epsom races.
And Amy spoke of the frantic hours when Brett was missing; of only discovering he was in hospital through a Find My Phone app; and of the darkest moment of all when it crossed her mind that, if her worst fears were realised, she would have to deliver devastating news to their children.
Brett, a machine operator at Ford in Dagenham, and a friend arrived at London Bridge at 7.45pm having failed to get a train to Waterloo. ‘We got off and thought we would have a few drinks before returning home,’ he says. ‘I don’t know the area and don’t know which pub we were in, but I think it was close to Borough Market.’
Sometime after 10pm he and his friend became separated and soon afterwards he heard screaming. Nearby, having mown down people on London Bridge, terrorists Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba began stabbing anyone who crossed their paths. In all, eight people were killed and 48 injured. All three fanatics were shot dead by police.
Brett recalls: ‘Everyone started running so, at that point, I just started running.’
Brett can remember only fragments of what happened next. He believes one of the attackers, none of whom he saw, must have slashed at him from behind using what police now say was a 12in ceramic pink kitchen knife wrapped in leather strapping. ‘I didn’t feel anything, I didn’t know I had been stabbed, but I realised I was slowing down. There was a draining sensation and then I collapsed,’ he says.
‘When I came round, Emily was crouched over me, telling me everything was going to be all right. I was lying on my back, laughing and joking with her, saying I’d lost heavily at the races. I was also telling her about Amy and the kids. I still didn’t feel pain but I couldn’t move.
‘Other police officers were telling people to keep moving and then I heard the gunshots coming from behind. I think at that point I suspected it was a terrorist attack. I could only see Emily’s face, nothing else. I was aware of people moving, and telling others to move on. That was scary, because you know that you shouldn’t be there. And yet I couldn’t move on.’
At this point Brett lost consciousness again and was rushed to hospital. ‘I woke up a few hours later. They had to drain a litre and a half of blood from my punctured lung. The consultant, Duncan Bew, who had treated some of Manchester attack victims, saved my life.’
Back at their home in Aveley, Essex, Amy saw a message on Facebook from the girlfriend of one of Brett’s friends which mentioned the attack and how Brett and the others had been at London Bridge. ‘I had no idea Brett was there,’ says Amy. ‘He wasn’t answering his phone.’
It soon became clear that Brett was one of only two of the 20 or so friends that went to the races who wasn’t accounted for. By now, Amy was frantic and contacted her cousin who she knew might be able to trace his phone using the ‘Find My iPhone’ app.
‘She accessed his iCloud account and we logged on to his Find My iPhone account. It flashed up showing King’s College Hospital accident and emergency. I thought he was with someone who has been hurt. That would be typical of him. I really couldn’t get my head around the fact it was something more sinister.’ Her
‘I could see how scared she was – we all were ’
He was so brave and selfless and didn’t stop joking the whole time! I’m so glad he is OK. POLICEWOMAN EMILY LEWIS
cousin’s partner drove Amy and Brett’s mother Jane to the hospital. By this time they’d heard that Brett’s friend had returned home safely. They arrived at just after 1am and were told only that he had been stabbed and was stable.
‘We were thinking, “OK he’s here, he’s alive anyway – that’s all we can ask for,”’ says Amy. ‘We weren’t allowed to see him.
‘The next consultant told us some time later, about 3am, that he had four stab wounds, had lost a lot of blood and needed transfusions.
‘For the first two hours I was just thinking what am I going to tell the children if he doesn’t come home? I wondered how he could overcome four stab wounds. I didn’t know what we were facing.
‘At one point a priest walked towards me and I thought, “This is it” – but all he was trying to do was offer me a cup of tea.’
They were eventually allowed to see Brett at around 5am. ‘It was a huge relief to see him but shocking at the same time,’ says Amy.
The following day she gently told their sons that there ‘were some naughty people in London and that unfortunately Daddy has been hurt and has some scratches on his back. Freddy just burst into tears.
‘Kids pick up more than you realise and he must have heard snatches of conversations. He was really upset so we took the children to see Brett in hospital.’
‘I got the nurses to clean me up so they wouldn’t be upset,’ says Brett. ‘Freddy tried to give me a cuddle but I had to tell him to be careful!’
Afterwards, back at home, Freddy kept asking his mother: ‘Do you think Daddy will be all right?’
‘He’s sensitive and was very upset,’ says Amy. Reflecting on the attack, Brett adds: ‘I was lucky; I feel blessed, but others weren’t.
‘I can only thank everyone who helped me, particularly Emily – I owe her my life.’