3 Mar 2011

July 7 witness: Steven Desborough

Steven Desborough was on board the Aldgate train when Shehzad Tanweer detonated his bomb. Mr Desborough tells Channel 4 News how he cradled fatally-wounded Carrie Taylor in his arms amid the carnage.

Steven Desborough was travelling on the London underground on July 7 2005 when he there was a loud bang and his train came screeching to a halt.

Mr Desborough was in the rear carriage of the train on which 22-year-old Shehzad Tanweer detonated his bomb, which ultimately killed seven people.

“We sat in the carriage for a while and could hear a bit of a commotion outside, people running up and down. After about ten minutes [London Underground staff] opened up the back door,” Mr Desborough told Channel 4 News.

“Someone said: ‘If you’d like to follow us we’ll start leading you out’. I was one of the first people to get off the train. I started walking down with these two ladies, helping them along.

“We started to see debris from the carriage over the track and as we got closer and closer the debris started to get bigger…twisted metal, glass.

“On my left hand side we were able to see where the bomb had gone off. I stepped out of the queue at this time – I don’t know why. I realised that something had gone on and that I could offer some assistance. It looked devastating.”

Click here to return to the London bombings special report and hear from the July 7 witnesses

Helping the wounded

Mr Desborough told Channel 4 News he went to the side of the train to see if anyone needed assistance.

“It seemed eerily quiet,” Mr Desborough said. “I looked in and shouted out: ‘Can I help anyone?’ There was a bit of a pause, but then this lonely voice that shouted out.

“Being a first aider, I wanted to help people. I realised I needed to help people, that wasn’t a problem, it was just knowing where to start.”

Mr Desborough described how the “carnage” he saw when entering the bombed-out train meant he could not help everybody.

“The people I could help I did my utmost for,” he said.

“There were survivors there still awake and conscious. I realised that I needed to look after them as much as I could. I realised I needed them to concentrate on myself and not look further down the carriage…I didn’t want them to see what I’d seen.”

Steven Desborough aldgate tube

During the July 7 inquest this picture was released showing Steven Desborough (middle) inside the train carriage helping victims of the blast.

In the carriage Mr Desborough came across a young woman who was bent around a pole, but still alive. He would later find out she was 24-year-old Carrie Taylor.

“Carrie was laying flat, horizontal, and she was quite quiet at the time, but every so often she would come round and try to speak to me. She was very peaceful. I realised I needed to try and keep her flat. I was thinking about her airways.

“She tried to reach up to me a few times but I just told her to be still. I cradled her in my arms and just kept talking to her – and kept talking to the other people who were near to try and keep their spirits up. Trying to reassure them that people were on their way.

“I didn’t think about Carrie passing away like that when I was with her. She was still showing signs of life and I just wanted to keep those signs of life going.”

Carrie died a short time later.

Along with other witnesses and families of the victims, Mr Desborough gave evidence at the inquest into deaths of the 52 people killed in the London bombings.

Meeting Carrie’s parents

Mr Desborough attended the hearing in October, where he met Carrie’s parents – John and June Taylor – for the first time.

Mr Desborough said that recounting the events of July 7 in the courtroom was one of the hardest things he’d ever done, but that he knew it was important.

“I walked over gently [to the Taylors] and I put my hand on June’s shoulder and before I even said anything, she knew straight away. It was a very emotional time.

Steven Desborough

“I think the first words I said to them were ‘I’m sorry’, for several reasons. First of all for them losing their daughter, and then I suppose for me, I’m sorry I couldn’t do more for her, but then I think they realised that.

“Before giving evidence I pulled them both aside and said I realise what I’m about to do is going to be painful for you and I’m sorry for that. But they agreed that it needed to be done and that they were prepared for it.

“I’ve always said to them ‘the last thing I want to do is hurt you, you’ve been through so much as it is’.”

Mr Desborough added: “What I went through that day, as much as it was very painful and hurtful, I realised the end product and the good it was trying to achieve.”

Speaking to Channel 4 News, Carrie Taylor’s father, John, said Mr Desborough had been “fabulous” in helping his daughter. He showed a “great sense of humanity”, he said. Click here for his interview in full.

Mr Desborough said he just saw himself as someone who tried to do the best in a difficult situation.

“If that’s what John says I’m grateful for that. I don’t see myself as that, I just see myself as Steve, but being there at the time I just did my best for each of the people that I could do. I’d do it again if need be.”

Almost six years on Mr Desborough says he still thinks of Carrie “every day”.

“I try not to think about the actual day down there – if anything I try to think of her in a normal way,” he said.

“If I’m out and having a good time – and not just for Carrie but for the other people down there – I’ll always give myself a quiet moment and look up and say ‘I’m doing it for you’. I suppose I do try and live those moments as they are so much more precious.”

John Mather Saba Mozakka Veronica Cassidy John Taylor Steven Desborough Thelma Stober