The 52 people killed in the July 7 bombings were murdered in acts of “mindless savagery”, the inquests into their deaths heard today.
More than five years after the attacks, a court remembered the “unimaginable tidal wave of shock, misery and horror” that struck London.
As the landmark inquest into their deaths was opened, the name of each victim was read out in court and a minute’s silence was observed.
Hugo Keith QC, counsel to the inquests, described the moment when four suicide bombers detonated devices on three Tube trains and a bus on the morning of July 7, 2005.
He said: “They detonated among 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.”
Mr Keith said the four bombers — Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Jermaine Lindsay, 19, and Hasib Hussain, 18 — unleashed an “unimaginably dreadful wave of horror” which they hoped would attract “worldwide publicity”. He said: “They were acts of mindless savagery which could only outline the sheer inhumanity of the perpetrators.” Lady Justice Hallett opened the five-month hearing, which will try to explain how the atrocity happened.
Dramatic audio tapes of Tube staff reaction to the bombs were played in public for the first time at the inquest.
They showed how London Underground were convinced in the immediate aftermath that they were dealing with an electrical problem across the network and not terrorist devices.
The explosions had tripped the power-supply system, blacking out large areas, which replicated a power failure or surge, the inquest heard.
At one point, 20 minutes after the Tube explosions, one member of the LU staff said: “I think it’s a power-supply problem and not terrorist related.”
The authorities also believed that at least one incident was caused by a Tube train in the tunnel wall.
Staff soon realised they had to reassess the situation as passengers covered in blood were being led to safety.
The edited taped phone calls involved conversations between the LU network control centre and individual stations and their calls to the emergency services.
Although there was considerable and understandable confusion about what had exactly happened at different locations across the transport system, all the voices appeared reasonably calm.
However, Hugo Keith QC, representing the coroner, did point out to the court that, 30 minutes after the Tube bombs, the LU emergency response vehicle was still stuck in traffic attempting to reach Aldgate station.
As a result of the review of post-7/7 procedures by the London Assembly, such vehicles are now allowed to use bus-only lanes in an emergency, the court heard.
Meanwhile, in a tent erected in the outside courtyard, some of the survivors and the families of the dead stood in respect during the minute’s silence. The tent provides a live video link to the courtroom for survivors and relatives who wish to follow the proceedings. Private rooms have also been set aside.
There have been a number of reports into the 7/7 bombings but the inquest will tackle still-unanswered questions about the emergency services’ response and the roles of MI6 and the police in investigating terrorist suspects’ movements.
Earlier the coroner had also spoken about the continuing traumatic impact on survivors and witnesses.
Lady Justice Hallett said: “We are here today to resume the inquests into the deaths of the 52 innocent people who were killed as a result of the bombs in London on July 7 2005.
“I should like to take a moment to remember them individually.”
Lady Hallett added that as much material as possible would be released to the public during the hearing.
She said: “I will balance carefully the needs of national security with relevance and fairness. It is in the interests of everyone that these inquests are conducted in as open a manner as possible. Contrary to some reports in the media today, 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.”
Sean Cassidy, 62, of Finsbury Park, whose son Ciaran, 22, was killed at Russell Square, said: “I simply want to know the truth of what happened on that day. I don’t know why they didn’t stop the bombings.”
The Rev Julie Nicholson, who lost her daughter Jennifer, 24, in the atrocity, said: “I hope we can begin to get the whole clear story today and not just a jigsaw. This feels like the start of business.”
The inquest continues.