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July 7th 2005 London Bombings

More Official Confusion

7/7: The Coroner's Nonquest

On the 7th July 2005 a series of explosions took place on the London transport system.

Days after the attacks an official story emerged that centred the blame on four men: Mohammed Sidique Khan, Shezhad Tanweer, Jermaine Lindsay and Hasib Hussain.

Seven years on and the evidence put forward by officialdom still does not stand up to scrutiny and despite repeated calls from survivors and family members of the deceased, a public inquiry has yet to be authorised.

In October 2010 a Coroner's Inquest into the attacks commenced.

From the outset the Coroner's Inquest was destined to fail one of its primary duties, namely establishing cause of death. It was confirmed that no internal analysis was ever made of any of the bodies recovered, and therefore no exact judgement could be made as to how these people died.

No explanation was given as to why internal post mortems were not carried out, and to the shock of many of the survivors and bereaved families this issue was kept firmly outside of the scope of the inquest.

The day before the attacks a company called De Boer received a contract from London Resilience finalising what was known as the Mass Fatality Plan. On the 7th July this plan was pushed into action and a mortuary was quickly set-up in the grounds of the Honourable Artillery Company near Moorgate station.

It is fair to assume that the implementation of the mass fatality plan was the reason behind the lack of full post mortems; as the plan was devised primarily for natural disasters or other circumstances where body counts were in the hundreds and resources would be stretched.

The questions of who decided to enact this plan and why no full post mortems were ever authorised were not answered by the inquest.

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Although the identification of the deceased was also a subject heavily redacted and considered outside of scope by the Coroner's Inquest, some interesting information did emerge.

It was revealed that a piece of spine was found by police forensics and that apparently the bone was used to identify Tanweer as being at the scene of the blast close to Aldgate station. Police purportedly already had Tanweer's DNA on record from a previous arrest in 2004.

A part of Khan's body was reportedly recovered from underneath the carriage close to Edgware Road station. DNA identification was apparently made through samples provided by his parents although no evidence was provided to confirm this was the case.

For reasons not made clear a trained psychiatrist, Morgan Castillo, was selected for the task of declaring life extinct on the bodies found at the blast sites. From his count at the blast sites near to Aldgate and Edgware Road it appears that Khan and Tanweer's bodies were not present.

It was suggested then that the bodies of Khan and Tanweer were largely disintegrated and that only fragments were to be found. However the inquest also announced that the two men's bodies were later reconstructed.

The inquest did not make clear how their body parts both disappeared and reappeared, and of course no proper post mortem was ever carried out.

Although other bodies were found largely intact, the majority of the family members of the deceased had to wait an inordinate amount of time to receive official confirmation of the death of their loved ones. With some waiting for almost 2 weeks.

However, full DNA identification of Khan and Tanweer apparently occurred within just 5 days of the attacks.

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Another intriguing facet revealed at the inquest focused on the estimated positions of the people within the tube carriages at the time of the explosions.

Khan was estimated to have been several metres from where the explosion took place and if true then this would contradict the notion that he manually detonated a bomb that had no timing device. His proposed position also casts doubt on the story that his body was largely disintegrated due to the blast; as people estimated to have been even closer to the explosion survived intact.

Lindsay's body was reportedly found an inexplicable distance from the explosion centre of the tube blast that occurred near to Russell Square station, and no explanation was given as to how this could have occurred. No life extinct verdict was pronounced.

Hussain's torso was reportedly found in the entrance to the BMA building, however no life extinct record confirmed this either.

Even though it is claimed that the men detonated bombs that blew them to pieces, their identifying documents, however, survived intact close by to their supposed body parts.

Representatives at the inquest put forward the rather ridiculous concept that the men must have shielded their documents using "something like a plastic bag." The inquest did not come to any firm conclusions as to why the four men had apparently spread identifying documents all over the crime scenes. Nor was there any attempt made to clarify how these pieces of identification were seized upon so quickly.

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Forensic details regarding the explosive devices were revealed during the Coroner's Inquest.

Kim Simpson, a forensic scientist employed at the DSTL operated Forensic Explosives Laboratory at Sevenoaks, suggested that the explosives were, "most probably a novel mixture comprising concentrated hydrogen peroxide together with additional compounds, which may have included a piperine-containing ingredient."

Curiously she also remarked that "the main explosive charge consisted of a novel, improvised material previously unseen by this laboratory."

Clifford Todd, another apparent forensic expert from the military laboratory at Sevenoaks, told the inquest about the discovery of a white powder identified as HMTD, which was assumed to have been used as a detonator . Todd remarked that it was, "a very sensitive high explosive."

Todd went on to suggest that the men would have needed some form of guidance to make the explosives as the ratios and concentration levels would have been difficult to attain through trial and error given how volatile the substances are. It was then noted by Todd that, "the hydrogen peroxide mixed with a fuel such as pepper were entirely unique within the UK for sure and, and far as I know, worldwide as well."

A suggestion that Khan had received a phone call with explosive instructions was made, but this was not verified.

The vagueness continued, and given that TATP had been stated as the primary explosive during testimony at the Menezes trial it was indeed peculiar that during the Coroner's inquest TATP was not confirmed as being found.

The official reports released to the public in 2006 stated that the explosives were most likely organic peroxide based devices. However, years later at the Coroner's Inquest, it is reported that forensic tests on the aftermath of the blast sites had tested negative for any traces of peroxide/pepper based devices.

The vague consensus at the inquest was that the blasts had been so severe that all traces of the explosive ingredients were destroyed.

And thus it was insinuated; but never fully clarified, that the explosive type reportedly found at 18 Alexandra Grove, surmised as "a home-made mixture of pepper and hydrogen peroxide", was the explosive type used in the bombings.

It was reported to the inquest that some traces of HMTD had been found at the blast sites, however it was deemed that these traces were from clothes and identification documents and not from the bombs.

The assertion of HMTD being used as a detonator was never made with any certainty.

Assumptions rather than firm conclusions were all that could be made at the inquest, and the ever-persisting uncertainty surrounding the type of explosive device and detonation method is certainly a failure of modern forensic science, if nothing else.

It was not made clear at the inquest why the DSTL were the only scientists to report on the forensic analysis of the explosives.

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Colonel Peter Mahoney from the British army was drafted in to the inquest to give evidence about the explosions. An expert in the effect of explosive devices, he had created what was referred to as a blast lung model of the explosions.

In Mahoney's opinion the heat signature left by the blasts was consistent with that of damage typically caused by a high explosive. However as Mahoney pointed out, Todd had not provided him with the "exact thermal and chemical output of the devices" and so coupled with no data from internal post mortems he admitted his model based on TNT explosives could only provide limited probabilities.

The kind of injuries and witness accounts have always appeared to be more consistent with military type explosives, and some of Colonel Mahoney's insights do add credence to the opinions put forward by experts in the days after the attacks, before the peroxide mythology had taken root.

Reports of the upward direction of the blasts which ejected people out of their seats; and created several holes in the carriages with the metal being pushed upwards, have been construed by some as indications that bombs may have been underneath the carriages. The inquest did not explore why the directive force of the blast appeared to come from underneath the carriages.

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In terms of linking the apparent bombers to the explosive devices found at 18 Alexandra Grove, it was reported at the inquest that the DNA of Hussain was recovered on a tub containing the as yet to be clarified yet apparently explosive substance. No other DNA was recovered on any of the other apparently explosive substance containers. However DNA and fingerprints of all four men were supposedly found on several other seemingly innocuous items that were reportedly connected to bomb making.

The Nissan car apparently used to drive 3 of the alleged bombers from Leeds to Luton on the morning of the 7th had been found laden with explosive devices. Once again no forensic clarification was made as to the type of explosives found.

The DNA of Khan was reportedly found on several items contained in the Nissan car. Pens, water bottles and energy bars were among the items, but no DNA of any of the accused was reported as found on any of the explosive devices found in the car.

However HMTD was apparently found on items in the Nissan and Fiat cars purportedly used by the alleged bombers.

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In the city famous for having more cctv cameras than any other; many were shocked to learn during the Coroner's Inquest; how apparent technical malfunctions resulted in almost no footage of the four men on the London transport system on the morning of the 7th July 2005.

It was revealed that all but one of the cameras in Kings Cross station were malfunctioning between the critical time of 0830 and 0850.

What was then concluded at the inquest, in direct contradiction to many previous official statements, was that no cctv footage exists of any of the four men boarding the tubes, and indeed no footage exists of them en route through the London underground to the respective platforms either.

Due to the confusion created by the media broadcasting undated cctv footage of the men on the underground which reportedly comes from the 28th June 2005, the average Briton is still under the illusion that cctv evidence placing the men at the crime scenes has been released, but no such evidence has ever been released and it appears that no such evidence ever existed in the first place.

The prominent survivor Rachel North, reported in 2008 that during a meeting with the then Home Secretary John Reid, a Counter Terrorism official stated that cameras had been recording inside the tube carriages. The Coroner's Inquest did not establish whether there had indeed been cameras operating inside the tubes that morning.

As was established shortly after the attacks - the multiple cameras inside the Number 30 bus were not in operation that day, and therefore there is no footage of Hasib Hussain inside the bombed bus. Yet representatives at the inquest further compounded the mystery by pronouncing that no cctv footage exists of Hussain boarding the ill-fated bus that morning either.

The footage released into the public domain of Hussain wondering around outside Kings Cross station shows him going into McDonalds, however it was revealed during the Coroner's Inquest that a manager of the restaurant is recorded as turning off the internal cctv system prior to Hussain entering the building. No investigation of why this occurred was discussed at the inquest, and it was not made clear why no recording exists of Hussain boarding the number 30 bus as the official story assumes he did.

Was it really just a coincidental glitch that caused all of the cctv cameras at the crime scenes to malfunction for the exact time the men would have been filmed by them?

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The four men should have stood out from the commuter crowd; wearing casual clothes and having large rucksacks, however barely any of the survivors or commuters have recalled seeing the men.

In fact a number of survivors reported that they do not recall the accused being present at all where the official story states that they were.

At the Coroner's Inquest, despite Danny Biddle's testimony, no certainty of the accused men being on the tubes or the bus could be established through eye witness corroboration.

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One aspect that was examined in more depth during the Coroner's Inquest was the role of Mohammed Junaid Babar.

It transpired that Babar was the much touted detainee that had apparently identified Khan from surveillance imagery presented to him after the 7th July bombings. Curiously, but given the track record of the FBI not surprising, it has emerged that Babar had worked as an FBI informant. And although he apparently played a key role in a terrorist network he is now free and is living under the witness protection program.

A key component of the official story is that Khan and Tanweer were radicalised and trained in terrorism in Pakistan. However Babar is the only named person who has claimed to be a witness to this. Further reports of terrorist training have not been substantiated.

The once alleged mastermind of 7/7, Haroon Aswat did not feature at the inquest, and from what is known he is now languishing in one of Britain's notorious psychiatric prisons; awaiting extradition to the US along with Hamza and Babar Ahmed. Aswat's role in the attacks was assessed in the 2009 ISC report and it was not denied that he had contact with the alleged bombers, however there was no further information provided at the Coroner's Inquest.

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Towards the end of the inquest representatives from the Security Service, the Metropolitan and West Yorkshire Police force were lightly questioned about issues surrounding the preventability of the attacks. Again the scope of the inquest was limited in such a way that evidence remained heavily redacted and many avenues of inquest were simply not approached.

Through questions about Operation Honeysuckle and Operation Warlock further information emerged of Khan being recorded by undercover surveillance operations whilst in the company of suspected terrorists.

The second Intelligence and Security Committee report released in 2009 listed numerous occurrences of Khan and Tanweer being on the periphery of terrorist suspects considered to be of the highest priority by MI5. The repeated excuse provided in the report suggests that MI5 failed to identify Khan and Tanweer because they were not considered to be high priority.

However it is rather inconceivable that men who had apparently been discussing terrorist bombings in the company of MI5 category 'essential' terror suspects, would not have at least been identified. It became even clearer then from this report, why some intelligence analysts, such as Charles Shoebridge, have suggested that Khan, and possibly Tanweer as well, were working as informants. Either way, the Coroner's Inquest did not probe why their identities were consistently held off from investigation in the years prior to the July 7th bombings.

It is important to note that due to the still classified contact between Khan and Tanweer; and MI5, the possibility that the so called martyrdom videos were made as part of an informant operation cannot be ruled out. No official verdict on the videos has ever been made available, and this is yet another line of inquiry that requires closer inspection.

In the past, individuals have been entrapped and set-up as patsies to take the blame for more insidious operatives who were being protected by the security apparatus. Operation Gladio is perhaps the most well documented example of this tactic, but I suspect that this kind of context was not common knowledge to those investigating the 7/7 bombings.

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Over the years of incremental releases of information from officialdom, it has become abundantly clear that MI5 deliberately lied and misled the government and the public with regard to prior knowledge of the accused men.

This fact alone should have warranted a full scale independent public inquiry. However, MI5's power has grown considerably since the bombings and their disdainful attitude towards the Coroner's Inquest was a testament to a force that considers itself to be unaccountable.

Indeed no one has yet to be held to account in anyway, and a wealth of information regarding police and security service contact with the accused men remains classified. A number of the survivors and bereaved families want this information released and are pushing for a public inquiry.

The level of inaccuracies, inconsistencies, omissions and uncertainties documented in the official reports and at the Coroner's Inquest are also reasons in themselves to warrant a public inquiry.

The discrepancies surrounding the identification of the men; the still as yet to be understood explosives; the inconclusive forensic and DNA evidence; the non-existence of cctv evidence and the many witnesses who do not corroborate the official story are just some of the strands of inquiry that need to be addressed.

AC July 2012

 

 

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