London Bridge attack

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An American tourist who was stabbed in the head, face and back in the London Bridge attack has paid tribute to those who saved him after “flatlining twice”.

Speaking at the inquests into deaths of eight victims, Robert Piersant singled out a Metropolitan Police officer.

He said PC Sam Philpot “never left my side” after the attack on 3 June 2017.

He told the Old Bailey: “The doctors did great things putting me back together but if it wasn’t for that PC I would not have got to the hospital.”

Mr Piersant and his wife Joyce, who was stabbed but also survived, were among the 48 people injured when Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, launched a van and knife attack in 2017.

The first 10 days of the inquests focused on the eight people killed in the first few minutes of the attack.

The hearing has now begun to look into the next phase of the attack – as Redouane, Butt and Zaghba continued stabbing people in bars, restaurants and on streets in the Borough Market area.

Returning to London to give evidence at the inquests, Mr Piersant explained that when he was first approached by an attacker, he initially thought he had been barged into by a drunk – but then he saw a knife.

“As I pushed him back, I’m looking at him. He started looking back towards me. He had an angry look,” he said.

“When he took a step towards me, I took a step back. That’s when I felt something at my left waist and that’s when I blacked out.”

Mr Piersant, from Colorado Springs, was visiting his daughter and her husband in London that summer and had been to dinner that evening with his wife and his son.

Joyce’s story: ‘I know he wanted to kill me’

by Alice Evans, BBC News, at the inquests

Joyce Piersant said when she first glimpsed the pink knife in the hand of one of the attackers, she thought the bright colour meant it was just a toy.

The court held its breath as her statement described two of the men landing blows on her husband, Robert, before one of them rounded on her.

”[The knifeman] looked me in the eye and hesitated. I would describe him as having questioning eyes,” her statement said.

He then stabbed her in the throat. ”I know he wanted to kill me. I can’t explain why… it was in his eyes,” she recalled.

The couple, who had spent the day sightseeing around the capital, survived the attack.

The packed public gallery listened in stunned silence as Mr Piersant described the moment he realised he had no pulse after being stabbed in the back and the head.

After the judge thanked Mr Piersant for his evidence, the survivor asked to say one more thing.

His voice catching with emotion, he thanked the medics and police officers who worked to revive him – including one officer who threw himself across Mr Piersant when they heard bursts of gunfire.

The hearing was told that Mr Piersant was taken to hospital in an ambulance, but he did not have a pulse.

“I remember that very vividly, just like you hear on TV. I didn’t have a pulse, I didn’t have breaths. I recall flatlining twice,” he said.

The court also heard from Gerard Vowls, who chased after the attackers throwing a chair, pint glasses and bottles.

Mr Vowls said he had been watching the Champions League final earlier in the evening when he saw a young woman being stabbed repeatedly by the three terrorists, who had an expression of “hatred”.

Image caption

Gerard Vowls threw a chair, pint glasses and bottles at the attackers

He broke down in court as he recalled her pleas for help. “That is the worst part. That’s what gives me the nightmares. She kept saying, ‘help, help me’,” he said.

“I heard one of them say ‘This is for Allah’.”

Mr Vowls said he ran after the attackers, swearing at them, calling them “cowards” and saying: “Come and get me.”

“I don’t think they were taking any notice of me,” he said, describing the attackers as “jogging left and right” looking for victims.

Mr Vowls told the court he hoped to distract the men away from the people they were attacking and lure them into an area where they could be shot by armed police.

CCTV images showed him picking up a chair and throwing it at Butt, and he said he later grabbed pint glasses and bottles from outside the Wheatsheaf pub, shouting “terrorist cowards” as he threw them.

His makeshift weapons missed. Instead, he tried to warn people inside the Black and Blue restaurant by gesturing through the glass front, but he said at least two people were stabbed when the attackers went inside.

Mr Vowls went to look for police help. But then he heard the shots from police marksmen and saw the three attackers lying dead.

Xavier Thomas, 45, Christine Archibald, 30, Sara Zelenak, 21, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, Kirsty Boden, 28, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39, were all killed in the attack, which was brought to an end in less than 10 minutes when the attackers were shot.

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