One of the first officers on the scene of last weekend's terror attacks in London described scenes of chaos and confusion, with wounded on the pavement and police unsure whether gunfire they heard was from the attackers.
"We had some updates on the radio about at least three men attacking people with knives, but it wasn’t really a clear situation and we were not really sure what to expect," Inspector Jim Cole, 41, said in an account released by London’s Metropolitan Police Service early Sunday.
"We had no idea what was going on, we didn’t know if it was us shooting or if the bad guys had guns," Cole said in the account.
Eight people were killed in the vehicle and knife rampage on the London Bridge and in nearby Borough Market on the night of June 3, in what authorities said was a terror attack. The three attackers were fatally shot by police.
Cole called it the most challenging and intense situation in his 18 years with the police service. He said police radio blared with desperate requests for ambulances on London Bridge, and that officers were doing CPR on people.
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
"Everyone went running and every available police vehicle was filled with officers," he said.
Cole said he made his way to Borough Market and got people, including those who were stabbed, to safety inside a nearby pub. He later found a police car to get a man who had been stabbed in the stomach to a hospital.
After word came that the threat was over, he told people in the pub that they were safe, according to the account.
"I spoke with the 200 frightened people in the basement and told them that there were armed officers outside, we were safe and we would evacuate them as soon as we could and I got a big round of applause," Cole said in the account. "That was a really nice, unexpected moment."
Cole said that at the time the attack was unfolding, there wasn’t time to think.
"It wasn't really until the next morning that it sunk in and I thought 'crikey, that was pretty major,'" he said. "It almost feels like it isn’t real."
Also Sunday, police released photos of the hoax suicide belts worn by the three attackers, saying their realistic appearance showed the heroism of police and bystanders who confronted them during the rampage.
"The belt would have been visible to them and if you are fighting back or aiming a shot at someone wearing the device you would clearly be very aware that you could be caught in an explosion," London Metropolitan Police Commander Dean Haydon said in a statement.
The fake devices were plastic water bottles wrapped with tape, police said. The attackers used pink ceramic kitchen knives.
The attack could have been even worse, officials said. Police said on Friday that one of the attackers tried to rent a 7.5-ton truck, but payment was declined and they rented the smaller van. They used that van to run over people on London Bridge before leaving the crashed vehicle and stabbing people in Borough Market, police have said.
Authorities also found 13 wine bottles filled with flammable liquid and rags wrapped around them and two blow torches inside the wrecked van, suggesting the suspects may have planned to use firebombs in the attack.
Cole praised his colleagues in responding to the terror attack and said they showed courage. "No one thought about themselves, everyone was busy helping other people," he said.