First London Bridge terror sufferer was ‘nostril to nostril’ with gang chief earlier than he was stabbed


The first victim of the London Bridge terror attack went ‘nose to nose’ with a terrorist who shouted ‘Allahu Akbar’ before plunging a knife in his back, an inquest heard today.  

Richard Livett, 53, had been out with his brother-in-law on the South Bank on June 3, 2017 when they saw an out-of-control vehicle veering down London Bridge.

Concerned about those inside, he went to check on the occupants only for Khuram Butt, the leader of a gang of terrorists, to emerge and thrust a knife into his flesh.   

Both had been passing by the Barrowboy and Banker pub near London Bridge, when Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22 went on a van and knife rampage.   

Recalling the incident, Mr Livett told an inquest at the Old Bailey today: ‘My brother-in-law said to me look out. We turned around and saw an out-of-control vehicle heading down the road, no more than 20 to 30 metres away.

‘It was on the same side of the road as I was. I didn’t register the fact that was wrong, I just saw a vehicle hurtling towards me. I turned back and into the fence, into the railings. I expected it to hit me.

‘I expected it to come right towards me and it seemed to, then at the last moment it crashed into the railings and I felt a shudder of the railings.’

Thinking it was an accident, he stepped forward to check the occupants were all right. But just moments later one of the terrorists, he believes their leader Khuram Butt, emerged with a knife. 

Mr Livett said: ‘The next sight that greeted me was a man ran straight up and right into my face and screamed Allahu Akbar. It happened within split seconds of me turning around.

‘I just saw a dark face with a beard. His face was literally an inch or so, nose to nose. He just screamed that once. 

‘I felt what I thought initially was a punch in my back which obviously turned out to be him flailing his arm around the back of me and stabbing me.

‘I just felt the impact initially but he withdrew it downwards and I realised what had happened. I felt the knife being withdrawn.’

He slumped to the ground, adding: ‘I felt like I went down for a while. I quickly appreciated that he was going crazy with a weapon it was a terrorist attack and I needed to get up.

‘I was aware of screaming and shouting. I think I was on a personal mission to get help as quickly as I could. I realised it was quite serious.’

As he staggered away, Mr Livett saw the men attack Sara Zelenak. ‘I wasn’t able to appreciate there were other people injured although I saw collections of other people screaming and flailing arms,’ he said.

The Australian au pair, 21, had met up for drinks with her friend Priscila Goncalves near London Bridge before terrorists killed her and seven others.    

Ms Zelenak was wearing high heels and appeared to lose her balance, falling over on the wet pavement. She was aided by James McMullan, 32, but the inquest were told the pair had ‘no chance’ as the attackers were already running towards them. 

Mr Livett continued: ‘I got to the stairs that go down to Borough market and I was aware there was a commotion at the top of the stairs. Exactly what was happening I’m not sure.’

‘Two men with their back to him ‘appeared to be doing a lot of the flailing, swinging of arms’ and he could hear a female voice screaming he said.

Asked if they were stabbing someone, he said, ‘yes.’

‘I remember seeing one, possibly two on the ground, others flailing their arms and a lot of commotion from that area.

‘It was ferocious at that point. Obviously it was real panic he wanted to do maximum damage in as short a time as possible. I think they were obviously in a heightened state.’ 

Mr Livett staggered on and tried to get into a pub but found it was in lock down and collapsed on the cobbles outside.

He said: ‘It was chaos. I knew the area fairly-well from previous visits and I was aware of screaming and shouting.

‘I was on a mission, a personal mission, to get help as soon as I could because I realised it was a serious blow I had taken.

‘I was seeing people being talked to and at that point it was dark down there- there was screaming and shouting and running all over the place, police sirens and everything. It was crazy. 

‘I don’t think I was acting particularly cleverly or anything. I was face down on the cobbles outside and a couple of people came, one was an off-duty doctor and one was a soldier.’ 

Mr Livett sustained injuries to his ribs, lung, diaphragm, spleen and stomach in the attack also losing a lot of blood. But he has thanked the Royal London Hospital for saving his life. 

The inquest also heard how the trio of ‘well-drilled’ terrorists cornered a chef before stabbing him to death alongside his friend. The attackers killed eight people and injured 48 more as they ran amok in the popular tourist area.  

Frenchman Sebastien Belanger, 36, had been out with waiter Alexandre Pigeard, 26, to watch the Champions League when the pair were set upon and stabbed. 

Mr Belanger had frantically tried to fight off the attackers before stumbling over a flowerpot as each of them stabbed his stomach and slashed at his hands.    

Jack Baxter, who was watching the Champions League Final at the Barrowboy and Banker near London Bridge that night, saw Mr Pigeard running and clutching a gash in his neck.

The eyewitness told the Old Bailey at an inquest today: ‘He had a large cut in his neck area. He was running holding that. He had somebody else running to his right.

‘They were both running looking at each other almost in shock at what happened and screaming to each other like ‘what’s going on’.’

His attention was then drawn to Mr Belanger – who worked at Coq d’Argent in central London – as he was cornered by three knifeman in an archway.

He said: ‘They had corralled him into somewhat of a corner and then one of them stepped forward and struck the man with the knife to the midriff, chest.

‘I remember him falling. I cannot remember if they struck him again.’   

Gareth Patterson QC, representing six of the victims’ families, asked about how the attackers were behaving.

He said: ‘You described the movements of the attackers as being quick, short and sharp and you spoke of fluid movements of their knives. Did it look to you as if they were working as a team throughout?’ Mr Baxter replied: ‘Definitely.’

Mr Patterson asked if it looked as if they were trained. The witness said: ‘Yes. I do not particularly remember either of them shouting to each other about holding that formation. It just seemed that was something they were conscious of.’

The lawyer went on: ‘From what you described they were a rather well-drilled team.’ The witness said: ‘Yes, in the sense it could have been pre-discussed.’  

Rasak Kalenikanse a doorman at the Barrowboy and Banker pub also saw the attack and broke-down as he relived the ordeal.

He told how the three fanatics held formation and were led by a man in an Arsenal t-shirt who appeared to be wearing an explosive belt. 

Mr Kalenikanse said: ‘I think maybe he is the ring-leader. He charged towards me. I ran down to my bar and I locked the door.

‘Once I got in, I locked the door because the music was on, so I had to tell my manager to stop the music and call the police.’ 

Eight people were killed in the attack, and many more injured. Ms Zelanak and Mr McMullan were two of eight victims murdered in the van and knife rampage.

The others were Xavier Thomas, 45, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Kirsty Boden, 28, Sebastien Belanger, 36, Christine Archibald, 30 and Ignacio Echeverría, 39.

The inquest continues.       


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