7/7 London bombings: Inquest begins

Relatives of those who died in the 7/7 London bombings - including a woman from Essex - say they're hopeful a long-awaited inquest will provide some answers for them.

More than five years after the attacks brought terror to the capital, bereaved families finally have the chance to ask officials questions about whether their loved ones could have been saved.

The inquest got underway at the Royal Courts of Justice today(Monday October 11th 2010) and has a wide-ranging remit to examine whether the emergency services' response was adequate and whether MI5 and the police could have prevented the 2005 atrocities.

Four suicide bombers armed with home-made explosives packed into rucksacks launched co-ordinated attacks on three Tube trains and a bus on July 7, 2005, in Britain's worst terrorist atrocity since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.

It has taken so long to hold the inquests because they could not start until after the trial of three men accused of helping the attackers choose their targets.

The trio were cleared of the charge at Kingston Crown Court last year, although two of them were convicted of conspiracy to attend a terrorist training camp.

Lady Justice Hallett, chairing the inquest, is sitting without a jury.

She has already ruled the proceedings will have a wide remit, examining all four bombing scenes to determine whether more could have been done to save the victims at each bomb site.

That decision follows concerns from some of the relatives that their loved ones were alive for a time after the bombings and may have lived had medical help reached them in time.

Heart's been speaking to John and June Taylor, from Billericay, Essex, who lost their daughter Carrie in the blast at Aldgate tube station in east London.

The couple had initially been told the 24-year-old died instantly, only to find out later she had lived for almost half an hour after the explosion, but died before proper help could reach her.

Mr Taylor said: "I think that knocked us back quite hard, just to think that she may have been laying there waiting for someone to get to her. We know that there were people there with her, but they were the people in the actual station at the time."

Mrs Taylor added: "That goes through my mind a lot... what must she have been thinking of at that time. Is she going to die? There was nobody around her that she knows."

The inquest will also examine the actions of the bombers and whether more could have been done to prevent them carrying out their attacks.

Lady Justice Hallett is expected to hear from members of the police and security services.

But concerns have already been expressed about the Security Service's apparent reluctance to assist the coroner's investigation.

Graham Foulkes, whose 22-year-old son David was killed in the Edgware Road bombing, said MI5's attempts to keep details of its alleged failings secret were "really distressing" to the families.

The Security Service angered families last week by proposing the coroner should be allowed to sit in closed session to hear highly classified evidence.

Mr Foulkes said: "By every kind of moral standard that you're brought up with, that's wrong. You're told, if you make a mistake, you hold up your hands.

"Here they are, drawing a salary to do a job which they clearly have not done. And they're employing every legal twist they possibly can not to be accountable. It really adds to the anguish that we're all feeling."

He added: "Whilst they're playing games, this is my life they're talking about. My view is that their incompetence allowed (7/7 ringleader) Mohammed Siddique Khan to get through."

Mr Foulkes, from Oldham, Greater Manchester, plans to come to London for the opening of the inquest and will attend as many other days of evidence as he can.

The inquest is also hugely important for the more than 700 people injured in the blasts, although the coroner has ruled that they cannot be legally represented or ask witnesses questions.

Inquests for the four bombers - Khan, 30, Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Hasib Hussain , 18 and Jermaine Lindsay, 19 - have been adjourned and will not be held alongside those of their victims.

The proceedings, which are expected to last up to five months, begins with a two-day opening statement.

The coroner is also expected to release never before seen footage of the four bombing scenes, along with audio tapes of telephone calls made to the emergency services on the day of the bombings.