London Bridge attack inquest: Sara Zelenak 'slipped' before attack

Sara Zelenak Image copyright PA
Image caption Sara Zelenak was stabbed during the attack at London Bridge and Borough Market

An Australian au pair was being helped up by a passer-by after slipping over in her high heels when they were both fatally stabbed, the inquest into the London Bridge attack has heard.

Sara Zelenak, 21, was on a night out with a friend when she was set upon by men armed with 12in (30cm) blades on the evening of 3 June 2017.

Briton James McMullan, 32, was also targeted as he tried to help Ms Zelenak to her feet, a witness said.

The inquest is in its second week.

Ms Zelenak and Mr McMullan were among eight people killed when Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba drove a van into pedestrians on London Bridge before jumping out and stabbing people.

Witness Erick Siguenza told the Old Bailey Ms Zelenak jumped out of the way of the crashing van before being stabbed by the driver.

Gareth Patterson QC, representing the victims' families, said she was wearing high heels and the ground was "quite wet" on the night of the attack.

When asked if Ms Zelenak had lost her balance, Mr Siguenza said: "Yes. She was completely on the ground. He [Mr McMullan] just grabbed her left arm and gently tried to pick her up.

"But by then the attackers were in close proximity and that's when they started attacking."

"There was no time for him to be able to help her up because the driver and the other terrorists were already running towards them," he added.

Image copyright Police Handout
Image caption James McMullan was stabbed to death as he tried to help Ms Zelenak up, the inquest heard

Ms Zelenak was stabbed in the neck while Mr McMullan was stabbed in the chest.

The court heard Ms Zelenak and her friend, Priscila Goncalves, had left the London Grind bar minutes before the attack to continue their night out and "have fun".

'Everybody was running'

Ms Goncalves told the inquest they were crossing the bridge when they spotted another bar, with red lights and tables outside.

They had started down the steps towards it when they heard the van crash.

The friends went back up the steps to see what had happened but became separated in the chaos as people ran away.

Image copyright Metropolitan Police
Image caption The court was shown CCTV of Ms Zelenak before she was killed

"I had no idea what was going on," Ms Goncalves said.

"We were together. People said 'Run', I started to run. I thought she was with me and then I looked, she was not. Everybody was running," she added.

CCTV shown to the court showed Ms Goncalves among a crowd of people who were running away.

Mr Siguenza filmed people fleeing the scene as Ms Zelenak and Mr McMullan were attacked.

Image copyright PA
Image caption James McMullan's parents Simon and Mila McMullan attended the inquest

Mr Siguenza described how the three attackers reached the area outside the bar below the bridge, where people threw glasses and a chair at them.

The attackers realised they were outnumbered and fled, he said.

They continued their attack elsewhere. Eight people were killed and 48 injured. The attackers were later shot dead by armed police.

Gruelling evidence

BBC reporter Katie Wright, at the inquest

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Julie and Mark Wallace, Ms Zelenak's mother and stepfather, also attended the inquest

Questions over why it took so long for paramedics to arrive became the focus for much of the fifth day of the inquest.

Ms Zelenak's mother and stepfather, Julie and Mark Wallace, watched from the courtroom as the details of her death were laid out.

Their expressions remained composed during a morning of gruelling evidence.

Two of the first police officers on the scene, PC Clint Wallis and PC Richard Norton, explained how they had performed CPR on Ms Zelenak CPR for about 10 minutes - but PC Norton agreed that they had been "desperately in need of paramedics".

They continued to provide treatment to victims despite the sound of gunfire.

The court heard that paramedic Gary Edwards was one of the first medics to arrive. As a tactical response paramedic, he had received specialist training for a situation such as this.

However, reports of a gunman meant he couldn't enter the market as it had become a "hot zone" and wasn't "safe enough".

The court heard this refusal led to an angry exchange with a police officer demanding help - but Mr Edwards said that even with hindsight, he would still have responded in the same way.

PC Richard Norton told the court he asked members of the public to try to flag down paramedics as he and PC Clint Wallis performed CPR on Ms Zelenak.

PC Norton said he was trained to treat minor injuries but paramedics had more equipment and were better trained to deal with the kind of injuries Ms Zelenak had suffered.

He said he later heard medics were being held back until the scene was made safe.

This was part of standard protocol for dangerous areas or "hot zones", the court heard.

The inquest heard there were three paramedics on the scene at about 22:24 BST, some 15 minutes after the attack started.

Image caption The victims of the attack clockwise - Chrissy Archibald, Sebastien Belanger, Kirsty Boden, Ignacio Echeverria, Sara Zelenak, Xavier Thomas, Alexandre Pigeard, James McMullan

Last week, Ms Zelenak's mother told the inquest her daughter was "the happiest she had ever been" in the lead-up to the attack.

And Mr McMullan had been celebrating securing financial backing for his online education company on the night he was killed.

The inquests continue.

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites