'Fireball' engulfed commuters when Parsons Green bomb exploded

8 March 2018, 17:38

Victims of the Parsons Green bombing have described the moment a "fireball" burst through their Tube carriage, causing severe burns and sparking panic.

The witnesses recalled how their hair caught on fire and clothes began to melt on their bodies - as an "intense heat" filled the carriage.

More than 90 passengers scrambled to escape the Tube train during the morning rush hour on 15 September last year.

The Old Bailey trial heard Ahmed Hassan had left the bomb containing 400g of explosives and shrapnel on the floor - and had got off the train at the previous stop.

The 18-year-old asylum seeker sat in the dock looking down and avoiding eye contact with the rest of the court as passengers gave their accounts of the horrifying blast and its aftermath.

Commuter Stephen Nash told jurors he was reading a newspaper at the time - "oblivious" to what was going on. He recalled a sudden "blinding flash" and then he realised he was "engulfed in flames".

He said: "I was thrown to the ground. The flames were overwhelming. It was intense heat. I thought I had lost my ears. I thought my head was on fire.

"I was knocked out so I woke up on the carriage floor and it was a matter of seconds. Just as I got to the doors, the doors started to close. It was a little bit scary."

Retired counter-terrorism officer Alex Beavan was also on the train.

He said: "I heard a huge popping sound. Looking towards the direction of the sound, I saw a rolling fireball coming over the ceiling at the back of the train.

"Everything goes in slow motion. There was a woman. I could see her realise what was happening and she began screaming and some men were shouting 'run'."

Mr Beavan told the court it was "chaos" and he decided to "take cover" behind a wall in case there was a second attack.

Lucinda Glazebrook suffered serious burns when she was hit by the "fireball".

She said: "I kept touching my face and feeling the back of my hair and my hair was coming out in chunks, and I asked somebody if my face was burnt, because I couldn't see it but I felt the heat from the fireball so I was scared of the damage that it had done to my face."

Aimee Colville had boarded the District line train only seconds before she heard a "loud bang" and "cracking".

"That morning I had curled my hair and I had put hairspray in my hair so when the flames came over me my hair immediately caught fire," she said.

Army officer Craig Palmer is trained in handling explosives and improvised explosive devices (IED).

He said: "I couldn't see any parts of a person, and expected there to be a suicide bomber, or parts of a bomber."

He told jurors he realised it was no "hoax" when he saw wires sticking out of what he thought was an IED.

The court was also shown CCTV footage which recorded the moment the blast occurred.

The footage captured the subsequent swell of people running off the train and on to the platform which was already occupied by commuters who had intended to board the train.

On the first day of the trial, the court heard how Hassan allegedly used his prize for being "student of the year" to buy the key chemical to make his bomb on online retailer Amazon.

The teenager, who had told immigration authorities that Islamic State (IS) trained him to kill, allegedly assembled the device while his foster parents in Surrey were on holiday in Blackpool.

He allegedly packed it with shrapnel to cause maximum carnage, buying the metal items from Asda and Aldi in Feltham the day before.

When Hassan was tracked down in Dover - the day after the bombing - he admitted he was responsible.

Prosecutor Alison Morgan has said experts concluded it was simply "luck" that the bomb did not fully detonate.

Hassan denies attempted murder and using the chemical compound TATP to cause an explosion that was likely to endanger life. The trial continues.