On 3 June, 2017 eight people were murdered as a result of the vicious and evil actions of three men. Speaking on behalf of the commissioner, and all of my colleagues in the Metropolitan Police and counter terrorism policing, our heartfelt thoughts are with those who were killed, as well as all those who have been affected by the attack.
They are also with the many people who were injured, who were caught up in the attack, and who were involved in the response – both members of the public and the emergency services. I cannot begin to imagine the physical and emotional injuries they have endured.
And all our thoughts and condolences are with the families and friends of those who were murdered: Xavier Thomas, who was 45 and from Paris; Christine Archibald, who was 30 and from British Colombia; Sara Zelanak, who was 21 and from Queensland; Sebastien Belanger, who was 36 and from Angers; James McMullan, who was 32 and a Londoner; Alexandre Pigeard, who was 26 and from Normandy; Kirsty Boden, who was 28 and from South Australia; and Ignacio Echeverria Miralles de Imperial, who was 39 and from Spain.
The criminals who killed these eight people should be forgotten and forgotten quickly; by contrast those who were murdered were deeply loved and will always be remembered.
The Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC, has today concluded that they were all unlawfully killed. I would like to thank him for his detailed examination of the circumstances of this attack.
Over the past eight weeks, we have heard both moving and harrowing testimony from those who were there on the night. What stands out, above all else, are the accounts of tremendous acts of bravery, heroism and humanity.
Members of the public helped those who had been seriously injured and tried to distract, fight and stop the three men from attacking others. Kirsty, a nurse, rushed outside to give urgent medical care to those who were injured, including Alexandre. Ignacio stopped to help police officers and members of the public as they were fighting the attackers, armed only with his skateboard. James tried to help Sara up from the floor. They paid the ultimate price as they selflessly tried to help others.
We have also heard about police officers – on and off-duty, armed and unarmed - who responded to calls for help, ran towards danger, and put their lives at risk to save others and stop the attackers. There were countless acts of bravery and dedication to duty on that night from my colleagues, of which I am incredibly proud. I would like to thank each and every one of them.
Many other emergency service colleagues, on and off-duty, helped the seriously injured receive vital medical care and got others to places of safety; all the while putting themselves at risk in responding to what was an ongoing terrorist attack.
Without these many acts of bravery and heroism, I have no doubt that many more would have lost their lives, such was the savagery of the attack.
And this was the third of five terrorist attacks in the UK in 2017 – a year which was unprecedented for those working to combat terrorism in terms of the pace, range and diversity of threats that we faced.
The levels of professionalism, commitment and dedication by those involved in counter terrorism prior to, during and after 2017 has been astounding.
But we are not complacent. Police, along with our security service partners, have subjected ourselves to the most painstaking and at times painful examination to determine what lessons we could learn. We have already identified and made many improvements and this work continues.
During these inquests, there has also been a thorough examination, which included whether we could have prevented the attack from happening, and whether the relevant authorities could have provided better physical protection to the public.
Protective security is a collective responsibility and a continuous work in progress. Counter Terrorism Policing will continue to work with our close partners, including the Home Office, to improve.
With regards to the investigation itself, and with the benefit of hindsight, we know certain things could have been done differently. But after careful consideration, the Chief Coroner found that the pre-attack investigation was nonetheless thorough and rigorous, he was not persuaded that investigative opportunities were lost which could realistically have saved the lives of those who died
Indeed, even after we carried out an intensive post-attack investigation, led by Detective Superintendent Becky Riggs, which was praised by the Coroner, no evidence of long-term, calculated planning could be found. Even those closest to the attackers, and we have heard from them during the inquest, knew nothing of their murderous plans
Countering the terrorist threat will always be complex and challenging work – extremely difficult decisions have to be made every day by incredible teams of dedicated and highly skilled officers and staff up and down the country.
Together they have foiled nineteen murderous plots since March 2017 – but despite their heroic efforts, it will never be possible to stop every plot.
Nevertheless, that must always be our ambition and the reason I believe the UK has the best counter terrorism machine in the world is our absolute commitment to getting better at what we do. And we will.
We will examine the Chief Coroner’s full rulings with great care when they are available.
I also want to be clear that the ultimate responsibility for the murder of those eight men and women lies solely with these three criminals.
Their actions have devastated the lives of countless others whose futures have been changed forever.
But if they wanted to defeat our country and our way of life, to break us and to divide us, they failed.
Their attempts to weaken us only made us stronger. The greatest capital city; the most diverse city; the most exciting, vibrant and inclusive city in the world remains exactly that today.
Finally, let me once again pay tribute to all those who have been affected. They have shown the most tremendous dignity, strength and courage, both since the attack and throughout these inquests. Our thoughts and condolences are with them all.
I am sure that you understand, with the inquests into the attackers’ deaths still to come, I am unable to take questions at this time. Thank you.