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London Bridge inquest: Families pay tribute to terror attack victims

PUBLISHED: 15:46 07 May 2019 | UPDATED: 16:35 07 May 2019

James McMullan. Picture: Met Police

James McMullan. Picture: Met Police

Met Police

Families of the London Bridge terror attack victims have paid tribute to their loved ones as the inquest begins into their deaths.

Xavier Thomas. Picture: Met PoliceXavier Thomas. Picture: Met Police

The Old Bailey heard how the five men and three women had separately been enjoying the evening of June 3, 2017, before three men drove a van into crowds and then stabbed revellers with knives.

Jurors were told how entrepreneur James McMullan, from Brent, was celebrating getting financial backing for his online education business on the night he was killed.

He was watching the Champions League final with friends in a pub and had stepped outside to have a cigarette shortly before being stabbed.

His dad Simon described the 30-year-old, who held dual British and Filipino nationality, as "funny, charming and clever" and said "his fearlessness could never be underestimated".

Christine Archibald and Tyler Ferguson. Picture: Met PoliceChristine Archibald and Tyler Ferguson. Picture: Met Police

"Nothing seemed to faze him, but more than this James was a person who put his family above all else," he said.

"He was James McMullan - a friend, a son, an uncle, a brother, an inspiration and a maddening genius, a brilliant and beautiful paradox."

The court also heard from Christine Delcros, who was seriously injured after she and her partner of two years Xavier Thomas were driven into as they walked across London Bridge.

The 45-year-old Frenchman, who had only arrived in London on the day of the attack, was thrown into the Thames. His body was recovered near Limehouse three days later.

Kirsty Boden. Picture: Met PoliceKirsty Boden. Picture: Met Police

Ms Delcros wept in the witness box as as she paid tribute in French, saying: "Since Xavier disappeared in such tragic and traumatic circumstances our whole world has fallen apart."

James Hodder, the partner of Australian nurse Kirsty Boden, said he was "unspeakably proud" of her bravery on the night of the attack.

The 28-year-old, who lived in Hampstead, heard the sound of the van crashing and ran to help.

"Her actions that night did not surprise anyone who knew her," Mr Hodder said.

Sebastien Belanger. Picture: Met PoliceSebastien Belanger. Picture: Met Police

"To Kirsty her actions would just be an extension of how she lived her life.

"I am still head over heels in love with Kirsty and I miss her so much. But I am so thankful for all the years we shared together and I will treasure those memories forever."

Ignacio Echeverria, 39, died while he tried to fight the attackers with his skateboard.

The banker, who lived in Poplar and worked in Canary Wharf, had spent the day skateboarding with friends and was on his way to have dinner.

Ignacio Echeverria. Picture: Met PoliceIgnacio Echeverria. Picture: Met Police

His family, from Spain, did not attend court but a statement was read out on their behalf.

"For all his life he also enjoyed the company of his family, not only his parents and siblings but also cousins, uncles and aunts," the statement read.

"He enjoyed being close to his nephews and nieces and was a real playmate to them - Ignacio would play as a child with them, making him very special for them all."

Other relatives to pay tribute included Tyler Ferguson, who told how his fiance Christine Archibald kissed him and told him she loved him moments before she was killed on London Bridge.

"I love and still love Chrissy more than life itself," he said of the 30-year-old Canadian.

"She was my angel. I can still feel her presence in the moon and know that she is always watching over me."

Australian au pair Sara Zelenak's mum Julie Wallace told how her daughter was meant to be working on the night of the attack but had got it off at the last minute, and ended up in Borough Market after not being able to find the rooftop bar she and a friend had intended to go to.

French waiter Alexandre Pigeard's dad Philippe said he was "devastated" and "inconsolable" by his 26-year-old son's death.

He said: "I'm not just a father, I'm all the fathers in the world and all the mothers in the world who have been stuck by similar tragedies."

Chef Sebastien Belanger, a French native who moved to London in 2009, was described as "a breath of fresh air" by his brother Julien.

The 36-year-old's mum Josiane Belanger added: "We miss him so much, his smile, his joie de vivre.

"I do not forgive what they did to him. They mutilated and killed him."

Terrorists Khuram Butt, 27 and Rachid Redouane, 30, from Barking, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, from Ilford, were shot dead by police at the scene of the attack. An inquest into their deaths will take place after the conclusion of the one into the deaths of their victims.

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