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...

- By Char­lotte Wace, Ian Gal­lagher and Si­mon Mur­phy

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.’

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 ??  ?? SUR­VIVOR: Brett Free­man on his hos­pi­tal bed the day af­ter the Lon­don Bridge ter­ror at­tack
SUR­VIVOR: Brett Free­man on his hos­pi­tal bed the day af­ter the Lon­don Bridge ter­ror at­tack

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