MI5 suspending investigations on London Bridge attacker may have caused the loss of important information

The Chief Coroner of England and Wales raised concerns about barriers to prevent attacks on London .

The Chief Coroner of England and Wales says the suspension of the investigation into the leader of the London Bridge attack in 2017 is a matter of “legitimate public concern”. 

Judge Mark Lucraft QC, the Chief Coroner of England and Wales, made the remarks in a new report  Action to Prevent Future Deaths.

In the report, it is said that the attacks on Westminster Bridge and London Bridge, proved that a motor vehicle can become a lethal weapon used to kill or injure people.

The three attackers: Khuram Butt Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba killed eight people on the night of June 3rd 2017.

In recent years, terrorism attacks using vehicles as lethal weapons have increased, not only in the UK but also in the rest of Europe. As stated in the report a significant proportion of these attacks involve rented vehicles.

‘Major impact’

Judge Lucraft reported that “the department of transport and the home office should consider whether any further measures can practicably be taken to reduce the risk of rental vehicles being used in terrorist attacks.”

It is reported that the UK’s security service MI5 was not aware that Khuram Butt rented the vehicles as it only happened a few hours before the attack.

Lawyers and the families of the victims argued on how the MI5 suspended the investigation and the major impact that this suspension had on the following events.

The Chief Coroner of England and Wales said MI5 investigations into Butt were suspended on two occasions during the early months of 2016 and between 21 March 2017 and 5 May 2017 where he was assessed as “unresolved risk”. The attack on the London Bridge and Westminster bridge happened a month later.

Concerns over barriers

It is possible, Judge Lucraft said, that because of this suspension further intelligence information could have been obtained about Butt as well as his links to the other attackers.

In addition to that, the families of the victims accused MI5 of taking almost two months to translate a request from Italian authorities on information about the other attacker Youssef Zaghba.

According to Judge Lucraft’s report, the MI5 officer gave evidence that investigations are usually suspended where the personnel needs to take care of other higher priority events.

At the end of the inquest in June the Chief Coroner of England and Wales stated that although he did not think that there was more that could have been done to prevent the attack from happening or to provide support when the events took place, he showed his concern about the failure to erect protective barriers on the London Bridge.

Judge Lucraft concluded saying that “it is important to emphasise at the outset that the operation was generally well managed” however “action should be taken to prevent future deaths”.

By Giulia Frau