Moment love turned to sheer horror
A VICTIM of the London Bridge terror attack told her partner she loved him and kissed him "passionately" just before their lives and dozens of others were suddenly torn apart.
Canadian Christine "Chrissy" Archibald, 30, was on her first trip to London with her fiance Tyler Ferguson on June 3, 2017 when three terrorists in a white van drove over the footpath and mowed down pedestrians.
Moments after their kiss, Ms Archibald died in Mr Ferguson's arms.
Eight people, including two Australians, were killed and 48 others wounded. Two were struck by the van, while the others were stabbed to death with 30cm kitchen knives after the killers leapt from the crashed van and began stabbing "indiscriminately" at nearby Borough Market.
An inquest into the deaths of the victims opened at London's historic Old Bailey court on Tuesday and heard heart-wrenching details of their final moments. It also heard from their loved ones, who were invited by the chief coroner Mark Lucraft QC to read details of the lives they had led before they were cut short by the attack.
Mr Ferguson recalled the moment he lost the love of his life, after they went out for a dinner date that warm summer evening.
"We decided to walk over London Bridge; at one point Chrissy stopped me out of nowhere, grabbed me close and gave me a passionate kiss after telling me she loved me. I remember it being a warm summer's evening and the sun had just gone down. And then the attack took place and Chrissy was killed."
The couple had a "full blown hearts-a-twitter romance" - she followed him to the Netherlands to work and they got engaged. They had been "very much looking forward" to spending their lives together and starting a family. Mr Ferguson was on a business trip and had been joined by Ms Archibald - who had been feeling "proud" of negotiating London's Underground alone - before tragedy struck.
The social worker was dragged by the van and then run over; she suffered injuries so catastrophic she couldn't be saved.
Her ring went missing, but was later recovered.
"Chrissy's ring was initially lost but during the clean-up of the bridge it was found and returned to me - I still wear it on a gold chain around my neck," said Mr Ferguson.
Her death was something he would never recover from, he said.
"No words can express how I felt. I was desperate and inconsolable ... Nothing has ever been the same since.
"I love and still love Chrissy more than life itself. She was my angel. I can still feel her presence in the moon and know that she is always watching over me."
The three terrorists, Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30, and Youssef Zaghba, 22, had the knives tied to their wrists and wore fake suicide bomb vests as they carried out the killings.
The inquest will allow families of the victims to ask questions of the authorities - including how Butt was able to plan and carry out the attack when he was being investigated by M15, the UK's domestic intelligence service.
All the victims of the attack died after they made chance decisions that placed them in harm's way. One of the Australians who died, Sara Zelenak, 21, was stabbed after her plans changed several times that night on what has been called a "sliding doors moment" by her mum Julie Wallace.
She told the inquest her daughter was the "happiest she had ever been - working, travelling, meeting new people, doing all the things 21-year-old should do."
The other Australian, Kirsty Boden, 28, ran towards the attack to help the victims. Her body was found in an alleyway. "Her immediate response was to leave the table where she was sat with her friends and to go to assist as she was a nurse," Mr Lucraft told the inquest's opening day.
Ms Boden's English partner James Hodder said her brave actions wouldn't have seemed unusual for everyone who knew her.
"To Kirsty it wouldn't have seemed brave, she loved people and lived her life helping others. To Kirsty, her actions that night would have just been an extension of how she lived her life," he said.
"We are so unspeakably proud of her and not a day goes by that we are not in awe of her bravery that night."
The other victims were Xavier Thomas, 45, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sebastian Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39.
Mr Thomas was on the phone to one of his sons when he was hit by the van and "catapulted" into the Thames. The others met their fate purely by chance - Mr Belanger went to investigate the crash and was attacked; Mr McMullen was outside a pub smoking; Mr Pigeard, a French waiter, also went to help others; while Mr Echeverria tried to fight off the attackers with his skateboard; he was stabbed in the chest.
The inquest will run for eight weeks and will be followed by a separate one for the killers, in front of a jury. Butt, Redouane, and Zaghba were heard by witnesses to shout "Alla-hu akbar" - God is greatest - and rather than spread out, they stayed together to corner victims, sometimes each attacking the same one.
Within 10 minutes, the trio had been shot dead by police.