THERE is no evidence the security services could have prevented the 2005 London bombings, a coroner found while warning that changes were necessary to help prevent further such atrocities.
The exhaustive inquests into the deaths of 52 victims of the al-Qaida-inspired July 7, 2005 attacks on public transport found they were all unlawfully killed.
The coroner, judge Heather Hallett, said the evidence “does not justify the conclusion that any failings of any organisation or individual caused or contributed to the deaths”.
The inquest heard the MI5 domestic intelligence agency and the police had a number of opportunities to identify one of the four suicide bombers as a jihadist who had attended training camps in Pakistan.
But Hallett said: “There is simply no evidence at all, that the security service knew of, and therefore failed to prevent, the bombings on 7/7.”
Though around a third of the victims initially survived the explosions, she found there was nothing more that the emergency services could have done to keep them alive.
“I am satisfied on the balance of probabilities that each of them would have died whatever time the emergency services reached and rescued them,” she said.
The verdicts and recommendations were given to a packed courtroom at the Royal Courts of Justice in London following nearly five months of hearings which examined the attacks in detail, shedding new light on the worst terror atrocity on British soil.
Over 73 days in court, some 309 witnesses gave evidence and a further 197 statements were read. The hearings generated 34,000 documents.
The attacks on three London Underground trains and a bus were perpetrated by four British Islamists, two of whom had made video statements spliced with footage of al-Qaida No 2 Ayman al-Zawahiri.
The verdicts came less than a week after the death of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden.
Hallett made nine recommendations for the intelligence agencies, the emergency services and London’s transport authority, aimed at saving lives in future.
Recording the verdicts of “unlawful killing” due to “injuries caused by an explosion“, she said the victims were “without a shadow of a doubt” murdered by the four bombers: ringleader Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain.
An al-Qaida supergrass who had identified Khan as a man he knew as “Ibrahim” who attended a terrorist training camp in Pakistan in 2003 was shown “dreadful” pictures in April 2004, Hallett said, instead of a clear, colour surveillance shot that MI5 took of Khan and Tanweer that February.
Her two recommendations for the security services concerned improving the procedures for showing sources the best images and for recording decisions relating to the assessment of targets.
Adam Chapman, a lawyer for some of the bereaved relatives, said the verdicts went a “long way” towards answering their questions.
Home Secretary Theresa May said the government would carefully consider Hallett’s report.
“Unfortunately, it is not possible to provide a risk-free world and we cannot guarantee that terrorists will never succeed. We must remain vigilant,” she added.
The emergency services must work better with each other at major incidents to help them respond more quickly and “hopefully prevent future deaths”, the coroner said.
Justice Hallett said she could not accept that the police, fire and ambulance services could not do more to improve the situation.
All the services encountered “real difficulties” in locating each other in the immediate wake of the July 7 2005 terror attacks on London.
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