An off-duty policeman who suffered a string of stab wounds when he fought back against the London Bridge attackers has told Londoners on the anniversary: “Stay strong – and move on.”
Charlie Guenicault was the first officer to confront the three extremists, after he happened on the scene, having just finished his shift at Peckham Police Station on June 3 last year.
He first helped victims of the killers, who then turned on him during their rampage, which left eight dead and another 48 injured.
Guenigault was stabbed five times – but this April completed the London Marathon to raise thousands for the staff who treated him at Kings College Hospital NHS Trust, where he spent 70 days and underwent five operations. He was told at the time, he would have died if fellow officers had not rushed him to the A&E ward an an unmarked cop car, because ambulances were not allowed to approach as the bloodshed continued.
The 27-year-old said: “This day is to remember the lives of the eight men and women who were lost that night and for the friends and families of those who have had to suffer the unimaginable pain of losing the people that they loved.
“To everyone else affected by the event – either physically or mentally – I say we need to remain strong and, although at times it may be difficult, we can all get through this and move on.”
He will not be at the remembrance ceremony on Sunday in Southwark Cathedral as he will be flying back from a week-long holiday with his family.
“For me it is a day like any other,” he added. “I am reminded, every day, of the injuries that I received from the scars on my body. But there are also those scars from the surgery that saved my life and every day I am grateful that I am still alive.
“I would like to thank the staff at Kings College Hospital for all the help they gave me over the 10 weeks I was there. And I want to thank every member of the emergency services who were there that night; and those members of the public who helped to keep people safe and alive, and to everyone who fought back against the terrorists on that night.
“I would also like to thank my family and friends for all the support over the year.
“It means so much to me and has helped me through the last year.
“Stay strong, London.”
Charlie was alert for 90 minutes after he was attacked, during which a mate from training school, Sergeant Steve Simpson, kept talking to him to keep him conscious. Charlie was then put into an induced coma. When he woke up he had 17 stitches in his head and neck and still more in his back.
His lower stomach had to be opened up so surgeons could staple his back wounds from the front.
He had just left the Duke of York Pub in Borough with colleagues, watching the Champions League game between Juventus and Real Madrid, and was heading for London Bridge railway station, when, seconds into the start of the attack – as he later found out – he heard someone shout: “Help – I’ve been stabbed.”
“Someone had got hold of his arm and he fell to the floor,” said Charlie. “I went over expecting to give him first aid and wait for an ambulance to arrive. I saw a fight between six or seven people and fellow police office Wayne Marques getting beaten up. I knew I had to give him the chance to get away.
“It turned out they were the people with knives. I went in and don’t remember what happened next. There were three people standing in front of me not looking too happy.
“They went for me. I did what I could to protect my body with my arms. They got my back then my head, another in the back and the back of my neck. I started to feel a bit tired – that I might need to get on the ground. I fell to the floor and was looking up. But I was worried they would finish me off in the chest. So I pretended to die – I looked to the left in the hope they would think they had done enough.
“After a few seconds, nothing else happened so I rolled onto my chest to allow someone to stop the bleeding from my back. I asked one member of the public to put his knee on my back.
“I asked another to keep me calm, talk to me and keep me awake. Then other policemen put me in an unmarked car and rushed me to hospital. If we had waited for an ambulance I would not have made it.
“I don’t remember feeling much pain. I felt the knife going into my back and head. But there was so much adrenalin – I was just focused on staying alive. I am not sure how much blood I lost – but I remember feeling it coming out of my head and pouring down my face and seaping through my clothes.
“I was fortunate Steve was at the hospital.
“It was touch and go for a time. I didn’t think I was going to die but it must have been an anxious wait for my family. I can’t remember much about waking up. It wasn’t until a day later that I was more alert. There were some sad faces then.”