By Robert Mendick, chief reporter
The attack came out of the blue and out of the night. Beneath the shadow of The Shard, Europe’s tallest skyscraper, terror hit Britain’s streets again.
At shortly after 10pm, a white B&Q van being driven at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour mounted the pavement at London Bridge and ploughed into pedestrians, knocking them down like skittles. Reports suggested some victims were thrown into the water of the Thames below. Others may have jumped in in an attempt to avoid the speeding vehicle.
The van came to a halt on the south side of the bridge but it wasn’t the end of the carnage. Three men wielding knives 10 inches long began attacking passersby, even entering at least one restaurant to attack Saturday night diners.
One report suggested throats had been slashed by the marauders, likely to be Islamic State-inspired terrorists – although that had not been confirmed by the early hours of this morning.
One eyewitness spoke of the men shouting “this is for Allah” as they stabbed indiscriminately.
The death toll was unclear at first but later rose to six; the number of injured is over 30.
At 1.30am on Sunday, a series of explosions, thought to be controlled, were heard at Borough Market, according to Telegraph reporter Kate McCann at the scene.
Theresa May declared it a terror incident and is returning to London to chair an urgent meeting of Cobra today.
A taxi driver told of the carnage. Giving his name only as Paul, he spoke of seeing several people lying dead or injured on both sides of the road.
Pedestrians screamed in terror as they ran for their lives. “It’s happening,” said one young woman as she raced for cover.
A taxi driver told LBC radio what he saw: “A van came from London Bridge itself, went between the traffic light system and rammed it towards the steps.
It knocked loads of people down. Then three men got out with long blades, 12 inches long and went randomly along Borough High Street stabbing people at random.”
What was sadly apparent was that Britain, so shortly after the Manchester Arena bombing, was coming under terrorist attack again. This time, just a few weeks following the Westminster Bridge terrorist atrocity, the capital was being targeted again.
“A white van driver came speeding –probably about 50mph – veered off the road into the crowds of people who were walking along the pavement,” said Holly Jones, a BBC reporter at the bridge.
“He swerved right round me and then hit about five or six people. He hit about two people in front of me and then three behind.
“I’d say there are about four severely injured people. They all have paramedics assisting them at the moment.”
Ms Jones told of how she thought some pedestrians had hurled themselves into the Thames to avoid being hit. It is possible that they were flung into the river after being mown down.
The BBC’s Ms Jones spoke to a Frenchwoman who had been injured in the incident.
She told Ms Jones: “I don’t know where those other two people are. So the police are checking the Thames.
“They were right near the edge of the bridge. It looks potentially they could have been thrown over.”
In the dark river below, police boats were despatched to search the river – apparently looking for people who may have been thrown off the bridge.
At Borough Market, just along from where the van came to a halt, eyewitnesses spoke of seeing one attacker stab his victim “calmly”.
Natalie and Ben were coming up to the entrance of the underground on Borough High Street when they saw lots of people running.
The married couple witnessed someone being stabbed.
Ben said: “I saw a man in red with quite a large blade, I don’t know the measurement I guess maybe 10 inches. He was stabbing a man… he stabbed him about three times fairly calmly.
“It looked [like] the man had maybe been trying to intervene but there wasn’t much that he could do, he was being stabbed quite coldly and he slumped to the ground.
The attacker and another man walked off quite “boldly”.
“A table was thrown, a bottle was thrown at the individual with the knife and then we heard three gunshots and we ran,” he added.
One eyewitness on London Bridge, told the BBC he saw three men stabbing people indiscriminately, shouting “this is for Allah”.
The witness, named as Eric, told how he saw a van driving on the pavement with people running out of the way, before three men got out.
“They literally just started kicking them, punching them, they took out knives. It was a rampage really,” he said. “They headed down towards Southwark Cathedral towards the bar, and starting running at people.
“People at the bar started fighting back. Then the three of them decided to make their way up to the bridge
“A woman was staring at them and they started stabbing her.
“Throughout the whole way across the bridge, there were people littered across bleeding. People were trying to help each other.”
The BBC reported an unnamed eyewitness, a security guard who works across multiple bars and pubs in Borough Market, claiming to have seen a man with a canister strapped to his abdomen.
The eyewitness described people running away screaming from three men.
The police reacted quickly. The terror lasted eight minutes in total before armed police arrived and killed the three terrorists.
Police are undoubtedly going to be looking for associates and accomplices, but they do not believe that there are any more attackers on the loose.