Nurse Helen Kennett arrives for the London Bridge inquests at the Old Bailey today
An NHS nurse has told how she stared into the ‘sorrowless, evil, empty’ eyes of an ISIS-inspired killer and asked him ‘what’s wrong with you?’ – before he slashed open her neck in the London Bridge attack.
Helen Kennett was off-duty drinking prosecco to celebrate her birthday with her mother and sister in the courtyard of Boro Bistro when she heard the terrorists’ van crash on the street above, an inquest heard today.
When she saw the extremists descend the stairs from the bridge to Borough Market, she thought they were innocent people seeking help after a car accident.
But as she approached to give them first aid, she saw one of the killers, Rachid Redouane, 30, stabbing 26-year-old Alexandre Pigeard from behind and realised it was a deliberate attack.
Giving evidence at the Old Bailey, Ms Kennett said: ‘I looked up at the attacker. I did exchange words with him. I looked at him and I said: ‘What’s wrong with you?’
‘He immediately looked at me and said: ‘No, what’s wrong with you.’ Before I could process what was happening he stabbed me in the neck on the left side.
‘He was dark-skinned, I’m sure, he had a bit of a whispy beard, not a proper one. I just remember his eyes, they were completely sorrowless, evil, empty.’
Despite his fatal injuries, Mr Pigeard warned the NHS nurse to run away before she was also stabbed by Redouane and left for dead in the incident on June 3, 2017.
Ms Kennett recalled ‘slipping in my own blood’ as she desperately tried to reach her family in an alleyway near the restaurant.
Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, were also shot dead by police
Khuram Butt walked over to a tap, ran his knife under it to clean off the blood, and wiped it, first on one side of his face, then the other. He was shot dead by police
The three fanatics, Kharum Butt, 27, Youssef Zaghba, 22, and Redouane, murdered Christine Archibald, 30, and Xavier Thomas, 45, with a van, and fatally stabbed Mr Pigeard along with Sara Zelenak, 21, Kirsty Boden, 28, James McMullan, 32, Ignacio Echeverria, 39, and Sebastian Belanger, 36. Another 48 people were injured.
Ms Kennett said it felt as though someone had ‘thrown a bucket of warm water’ over her as her blood streamed out of her wound.
‘I felt this rushing all down my body and I thought: ‘Oh no, I’ve been stabbed as well.’
Ms Kennett, who had been celebrating a family birthday with her sister Louise and their mother, said she was certain she was going to die.
She remembers hearing ‘screaming and shouting’ as two of the terrorists hacked away at victims near the Boro Bistro restaurant.
She added: ‘I knew at this point I couldn’t help people and I thought I was going to die. But I didn’t want to die there, I wanted to die around the corner with my family.’
Alexandre Pigeard, 26, was killed in the London Bridge attack on June 3, 2017
After reaching her family members, she told them how to treat her wound, and they stemmed the blood with tea towels and a shirt.
She had to walk to an ambulance near the Bunch of Grapes pub on St Thomas Street before she was taken to Kings Cross Hospital. ‘I was very conscious of what was happening,’ she said.
‘I knew that my airway was punctured, I knew my oesophagus was punctured, I thought if my artery has been punctured I may have a few minutes and that’s all.’
Recalling the moments the terrorists came down the staircase after crashing their van, she said: ‘I presumed they had come down because of an accident and they have come down for us to help them after the accident.
‘The first time I noticed [Mr Pigeard] was when I saw him bleeding a lot and the attacker standing behind him.
‘I thought that he had been involved in the car crash and the man standing behind him had dragged him down the stairs for us to help him.
‘I went to him because I thought I had to do something, he was bleeding a lot. As I got closer I’m sure there was a cut right across his neck.
Mr Pigeard was killed just three yards away from diners he was serving in Bore Bistro
‘I looked at his injuries, I looked at the man, then I saw the knives, I saw his throat. I immediately knew in my mind that that was an unsurvivable injury and this was very serious.’
Ms Kennett said the attacker had an arm around Mr Pigeard and had a knife raised in his other hand ready to stab him again.
Describing Mr Pigeard’s dying moments, she said: ‘I spoke to him, I put my arm out to him. I said: ‘Let me help you, I’m a nurse.’ He shook his head. I don’t know what he knew. I’m sure he told me to run.’
The inquest also heard from Geoffrey Huet who saw the second attack from outside the bistro and said he believed Redouane was trying to ‘finish off’ Mr Pigeard.
‘I looked at the killer in the eyes and saw the flash of the blade,’ he said. ‘He had this craziness in his eyes, this anger, he looked furious.’
Alexandre was seen writhing on the floor holding his throat with his hands after it was slashed open by Redouane.
The inquest heard brave NHS nurse Kirsty Boden, 28, also rushed to his aid before being knifed repeatedly.
The three terrorists strapped fake explosive belts made from water bottles on to their torsos in a bid to strike fear into the hearts of officers attempting to stop them
The terrorists tied 12-inch knives to their wrists with tape before they launched their attack
Tomasso Clemente, who was also out with friends at Boro Bistro, saw her brutal murder.
He said: ‘I saw this guy, he was bent over her. He was stabbing this girl.
‘At the beginning I thought he was trying to help her to stand up, but then I saw he pulled a knife from her belly.
‘Next to her there was a guy lying on the floor, I recognised him as a waiter because I had seen him around the place.
‘I noticed he was covered in blood and he was holding his throat with his hands.’
Mr Clemente said Alexandre was laying on his back ‘rocking’ from side to side as he died in a pool of blood.
Dubbed the ‘Angel of London Bridge’ for her efforts to help victims, Ms Boden desperately tried to fend off her killer as she was hacked to death.
‘She was lying on the floor and she was trying to protect herself with her hands,’ said Mr Clemente.
‘She was covering her chest and belly. I saw the knife going through her two or three times.’
The witness described seeing the ISIS fanatic raising his 12-inch blade above his head and plunging it down into the victim repeatedly during the horrifying attack.
Earlier, the inquest heard from a diner who saw the terrorist stab her waiter to death and told how she feared she would die next as the ‘smiling’ killer scoured the scene for his next victim.
Andzelika Abokaityte and her boyfriend were celebrating a friend’s birthday at Boro Bistro on the evening of June 3, 2017 when Mr Pigeard, who had been serving them, was brutally killed.
Pictured: the battered Renault van used by terrorists during the attack on London Bridge in 2017, leaving it with its bumper hanging off
Mr Pigeard, 26, was one of eight victims of the three terrorists who had taped armed with 12in ceramic knives.
The couple heard the terrorists’ van crash into the railings above them, sending debris down onto the tables in the courtyard below.
‘My friends stood up and they were looking at what happened above us and they said a van crashed into the bridge,’ she told the inquest into the deaths.
One friend was hit on the arm by glass or a brick from above, she said and she was asking him if he was OK when she heard people screaming.
‘Shortly after I was looking and I could see a man holding our waiter,’ she said.
Graphics released today shows the location of six of the victims when they were attacks
The man was three metres away, grasping Mr Pigeard from behind. She said: ‘I could only see his face. He looked evil and he was smiling.
‘He was dark skinned, I think, with dark hair. I think he had a little beard. He was holding the waiter and stabbing him from behind.
‘I think two times and then I looked at my friend and asked him to run.
‘When I looked around and, I don’t know if it was the same person, I saw him slicing the neck.’
The man was ‘looking around as if to find the next person to stab’, she said. ‘I remember thinking I was going to die. The whole thing was horrific’.
Another images shows the route of the attackers as they weaved in and out of busy pubs and restaurants attacking diners
The couple retreated inside the restaurant from where a friend jumped through the window, to rescue his wife from under one of the tables and they then escaped through the emergency exit.
‘There was a man holding his neck with a lot of blood trying to stop it and there was a woman lying down, I’m not sure if she was alive.
‘I think there were her friends standing around. I think she was wearing a multi coloured dress with flowers on it. She wasn’t moving, her eyes were open.’
Mr Pigeart’s colleague, Dimitri Gabriel, heard the crash and went out to investigate with Mr Pigeart leading the way.
The red, green and blue dots on this image show where the attackers were when the police arrived. The coloured squares show the position of police officers
‘The last word he said to me is let’s go up and see what happened. Maybe it’s an accident on the bridge,’ Mr Gabriel told the inquest.
They went through a stone arch and up some stairs, where other witnesses suggest Mr Pigeart was stabbed in the neck before retreating.
‘He was just in front of me,’ Mr Gabriel said. ‘He went towards the arch. As soon as I reached that arch he was already going up the stairs.
‘There were loads of people screaming and so I decided to go back. The screams were coming from the top of the stairs. People were coming down.’
He retreated down an alleyway and then returned to the restaurant. ‘I decided to go and check on the customers and when I went back outside I saw him.
He was laying down right in front of the restaurant. ‘My colleagues were saying it’s Alexandre, it’s Alexandre. I said no. One of my colleagues took a blanket to cover him.
‘He was face down but my colleagues together we were in shock as well. We didn’t know what to do.’
The inquest continues into the deaths.
Who were the victims of the London Bridge terror attack?
Spaniard Ignacio Echeverria was stabbed to death as he tried to fight off the terrorist attackers with his skateboard.
The 39-year-old had been in the UK for over a year was working as a financial crime analyst at HSBC.
Mr Echeverria joined unarmed police constables Wayne Marques and Charlie Guenigault in fighting off the three attackers as they set upon Marie Bondeville, hitting at least one terrorist with his skateboard.
‘His courageous efforts were to seek to stop the attack,’ Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft said.
Mr Echeverria was the youngest of five siblings and was a Catholic who went to mass every week. He could speak English, German and French fluently.
Nurse Kirsty Boden was fatally stabbed as she tried to tend to the wounded and the dying.
Miss Boden, 28, moved to London in 2013 from the small town of Loxton, in South Australia.
She was a senior staff nurse at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital and lived with her British boyfriend James Hodder in a flat in Hampstead.
Mr Hodder said: ‘She loved people and loved her life helping others. To Kirsty, her actions that night would have been an extension of how she lived her life.’
Alexandre Pigeard was working as a waiter at Boro Bistro when he was attacked.
The 26-year-old Frenchman had moved to London to further his ambitions as a dance music DJ.
Minutes before he was fatally stabbed, he video-called his father Philippe during a break from work at the French restaurant.
Mr Pigeard had planned to return to France in the autumn of 2017 to help open a restaurant in Nantes and to record an EP with his musician father.
Mr Pigeard senior told the inquest: ‘I’m present here as a devastated father who has lost a child in such circumstances – an inconsolable father.’
James McMullan was stabbed in the chest near the Barrowboy and Banker pub while he was celebrating getting financial backing for his online education company.
The British-Filipino entrepreneur was watching the Champions League final with friends in the pub.
The 32-year-old, from Hackney in East London, was attacked when he stepped outside to have a cigarette.
He had dreamed of helping children without access to education through his e-learning company.
Mr McMullan’s father Simon described his son as ‘funny, charming and clever’ and said ‘his fearlessness could never be underestimated’.
The mother of chef Sebastien Belanger said she does not forgive the terrorists who ‘mutilated and killed him’.
Her 36-year-old son was drinking at the Boro Bistro when he was stabbed repeatedly in the chest.
His mother Josiane Belanger said: ‘We miss him so much, his smile, his joie de vivre. I do not forgive what they did to him.’
Originally from Angers in western France, Mr Belanger started work at the Coq d’Argent in the City and was promoted to the role of head chef.
Australian au pair Sara Zelenak was on the ‘trip of a lifetime’ when she was stabbed to death while on a night out with a friend.
Miss Zelenak’s mother Julie Wallace said ‘every sliding door’ put her daughter in ‘harm’s way’.
‘She was meant to be working and at the last minute she got the night off,’ Mrs Wallace said.
‘At 10pm Sara’s phone rang and her friend said ‘I’ve finished at the rugby’ and so she left her safe haven and walked out into a terrorist attack and was stabbed to death.’
Before leaving for UK in March 2017, Miss Zelenak worked with her stepfather Mark as a crane truck operator in Brisbane to save up for her trip.
Her parents have since set up Sarz Sanctuary to help other families to cope with grief.
Xavier Thomas was walking over London Bridge with his girlfriend Christine Delcros when they were hit by the van.
The 45-year-old father-of-two was catapulted into the Thames and his girlfriend suffered life-changing injuries. His body was recovered downstream three days later.
Mr Thomas, who had arrived in London on the day of the attack, lived near Paris and worked for American Express.
Miss Delcros said: ‘Since Xavier disappeared in such tragic and traumatic circumstances our whole world has fallen apart.’
Canadian tourist Christine Archibald told her fiance Tyler Ferguson she loved him seconds before she was mowed down.
Miss Archibald and Mr Ferguson were walking across London Bridge after dinning at a nearby restaurant when the atrocity unfolded.
Her fiancé said: ‘At one point Chrissy stopped me out of nowhere, grabbed me close and gave me a passionate kiss after telling me she loved me.
‘I remember it being a warm summer’s evening and the sun had just gone down.. And then the attack took place and Chrissy was killed.
‘No words can express how I felt when this happened. I was absolutely devastated and inconsolable. Nothing has ever been the same since.’
Miss Archibald’s engagement ring was lost during the attack, but later recovered from the bridge. Mr Ferguson now wears it on a chain around his neck.