The Scottish Mail on Sunday
Fake suicide belt was set for siege, say investigators
THE London Bridge terrorists could have been planning to take hostages in a siege, police said yesterday as they released photos of the fake suicide belts worn by the trio.
Officers believe the jihadi gang used the makeshift leather belts, with water bottles covered in silver duct tape, to deter marksmen from shooting them, possibly because they intended to surround themselves with human shields.
Commander Dean Haydon, leading the investigation, said: ‘I have not seen this tactic in the UK before, where terrorists create maximum fear by strapping fake explosives to themselves.
‘Anyone who saw them on the night would have thought they were genuine.
‘It is hard to speculate what the motive was for wearing the belts. It could be that they had plans to take the attack into a siege situation or it might be that they saw it as protection from being shot themselves.’
Cdr Haydon praised the courage of police and bystanders who tackled the killers, despite the apparent danger of the ‘explosives’.
‘The belt would have been visible to them, and if you are fighting back or aiming a shot at someone wearing the device you would clearly be very aware that you could be caught in an explosion.’
Cdr Haydon spoke after it emerged that the killers’ ringleader Khuram Butt, 27, had tried to hire a much bigger 7.5-ton lorry just hours before the attack, rather than the Renault van the three used. But his bank card was declined and he was forced to use the much smaller, lighter B&Q van.
The van was packed with sacks of gravel and chairs, possibly to increase its weight as a ‘battering ram’. Also in the van were 13 Molotov cocktails and two blow torches to ignite them – which could also fit the siege theory.
All three of the attackers were armed with pink ceramic knives, believed to have been bought from a Lidl store. They all had the same black insulating tape around the handle, and were tied to the killers’ wrists with shoelaces.
One of the first officers on the scene of the attack has described the ‘pandemonium’.
Inspector Jim Cole, 41 based at nearby Peckham police station, said he and his team managed to move about 200 people to the safety of a pub cellar near Borough Market. He said he could hear his colleagues over the radio ‘in quite a state of distress’ as they desperately called for ambulances.
‘On the radio, I could hear officers up at London Bridge and outside the Mudlark [pub] who were doing CPR and they were calling for ambulances urgently,’ he said. ‘I would describe it as pandemonium really.’
Inspector Cole recalled trying to reassure the people in the basement as the drama unfolded on the streets above.
‘I told them that we had armed officers outside, everyone was safe and there was a nice big round of applause and cheering – that was really good.’
Officers have so far spoken to 262 people from 19 different countries. Of these, 78 are significant witnesses.
They believe there will be many others who saw the incidents but have yet to contact police, and are asking them to come forward.
‘Protection from being shot themselves’