The 52 victims of the 7/7 London bombings were murdered in acts of “mindless savagery”, the inquests into their deaths heard today.
More than five years after the attacks, the long-awaited hearing got under way with a minute’s silence for those who died.
Hugo Keith QC, counsel to the inquests, began by outlining how four suicide bombers detonated devices on three Tube trains and a bus on the morning of July 7 2005.
He said: “They detonated amongst the innocent and the unknowing, indiscriminately killing and maiming passengers who were simply going about their daily business.
“The bombs struck down men and women, the old and young, British nationals as well as foreigners.
“They had no regard to whether the victim was Christian, Muslim, a follower of any of our other great faiths, an adherent to none.
“They were just travelling on the London transport system. It is the saddest of duties to open their inquests.”
Keith said the four bombers – Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shehzad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain – unleashed an “unimaginably dreadful wave of horror” which they hoped would attract “worldwide publicity”.
“They were acts of mindless savagery which could only outline the sheer inhumanity of the perpetrators,” he said.
He added that Khan, Tanweer, Lindsay and Hussain were responsible for murder by detonating bombs in public.
“The essential nature of these acts was murder, given the act of detonating bombs in a public place is so self-evidently an act of murder,” he said.
Keith said there had already been a series of investigations into the 7/7 attacks, including major reports by the Parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee and the London Assembly.
But these earlier inquiries did not concentrate on the victims, did not involve their families and were not independent.
Keith said: “None of these processes, even the public ones, focused, as you remarked, on the individuals who died, or properly engaged with their families.
“There was no detailed examination of what actually happened to each deceased in the three carriages and the bus.
“The families had no direct or formalised input into any of the reports. In none of them was there judicial control.
“There were no lawyers to ask questions on their behalf, no examination of witnesses under oath and no institutionalised independence.”
Keith said the inquests would, by contrast, focus on the 52 innocent victims of the bombings.
He said: “Although it is likely that the plotters attacked one of London’s most recognisable structures, its transport network, in order to spread the effect of their deeds as widely as possible, it is vital that we remember that this was an attack on individual people and that these proceedings are concerned with each unique victim.”
The inquests at the Royal Courts of Justice in London have a wide-ranging remit to examine whether the emergency services’ response was adequate and whether MI5 and the police could have prevented the atrocities.
The coroner, Lady Justice Hallett, who is sitting without a jury, opened today’s hearing by pledging to release as much material as possible to the public.
“I will balance carefully the needs of national security with relevance and fairness,” she said.
“It is in the interests of everyone that these inquests are conducted in as open a manner as possible.”
She added: “I did not decide to sit without a jury so as to consider intelligence material in private.
“I have yet to decide whether it is in my powers, and if so, if it is in the interests of justice to conduct any closed hearings.”