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‘Like a war zone’ London Bridge hero Geoff Ho reveals chilling account of terror attack

Geoff HoMARK KEHOE

Geoff Ho recovering in hospital and inset pictured in aftermath of terror attack

I close my eyes and I can still see and hear, crystal clear, everything from that night.

I can actually still taste it in my mouth. The fear.

The adrenaline coursing through my body, propelling my legs forward.

The unmistakable copper taste of blood. My blood. Tears, screams around me, the emergency sirens, treatment and evacuation orders desperately yelled.

People have called me a hero but all I did was put myself between terrorists and my friends


Then gunshots.

This is not how the night should have ended for anyone. It is not how nights in Borough end, full stop.

London Bridge is one of the friendliest, best places anywhere in the world for food, drink, fun.

Geoff HoMARK KEHOE

Geoff thanked doctors and nurses at Royal London Hospital

If ever there was a place that’s sole purpose is to help people from all walks of life meet, drink, eat and be merry, it’s London Bridge.

It’s been my home away from home for 18 years and will always be.

It’s where me and my friends for years have shared laughter, happiness, highs, lows, tears and sorrows, all over the best drinks and foods from Britain and the rest of the world.

All in our special part of the city. After leaving work at Express Towers on the other side of London Bridge late Saturday afternoon, I headed to Borough as I always do.

To see my friends, eat, drink and have a damn good time. And to check out all the heartbreakingly pretty girls and try to convince one to make a mistake or two with a friendly hack like me.

Throughout the evening and night, I met up with a steady stream of friends, English, Canadian, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, American and others.

We settled into The Sheaf, long known as my pub of choice, to watch the Champions League fi nal between Juventus of Italy and Spain’s Real Madrid.

The match was sadly won by Real Madrid, much to the disappointment of myself and my Italian friends. Having had an early start to the day because of the British and Irish Lions rugby tour of New Zealand, I called it a night.

I said bye to my friends in front of the bar, and the staff behind the bar and on security, walked out of the pub, and turned left towards the Tube station.

Geoff HoMARK KEHOE

‘I owe too many people a debt of gratitude for what they did that day’

I knew I would pass the The Southwark Tavern on the way. I always do on the way home, and every so often I stop for a cheeky refresher.

It is after all, just a one-minute walk from The Sheaf, around 120 yards.

Out of the corner of my eye I saw two unarmed drunken idiots outside The Southwark attacking a lone bouncer. I had no idea why they would do that.

Given how nice, polite, professional all the door staff are in the area, I knew I had to intervene and defend the doorman.

I jumped straight in.

A two on one attack? Not on my watch.

The two attackers were angry. Why? Who knows, who cares. They were snarling but slow. Their punches, while seemingly powerful, missed and one only hit the menu on the wall.

The bouncer was rightly angry, yelling at them defiantly, how dare these yobs start and try to ruin everyone’s night!

Still, I knew my job.

Defuse the situation. Make sure the pair don’t attack him. Put myself in between them.

I knew that if I could keep the pair of them away, talking for long enough, if I could keep their attention away from the bouncer, then the police would arrive quickly and take them away.

Geoff HoMARK KEHOE

‘I jumped straight in. A two on one attack? Not on my watch.’

They did. The tension was immediately released. Seeing the morons taken away was great. Me and the doorman shook hands and I wished him well.

It was then I made a fateful decision.

Instead of walking 20 yards to the Tube and my train home, I turned left and went to the Black & Blue steakhouse five doors up the road. I’d done my good deed for the day.

I helped break up a fight and defended a bouncer from two attackers. Job done, I deserve a quick beer and some food I thought. A quick Facebook update and I entered the restaurant, said “hi” to everyone and told them what happened outside the Tavern.

One of the girls called me a drama queen and teased that I was in the Black & Blue to hide from friends of the yobs.

I feigned outrage and laughed. We all did.

Seconds later a waitress locked the door and said something before running to the back.

Then I saw them. The three terrorists were outside.

Immediately time slowed down. Years of martial arts training means that my mind can focus, so that when trouble really starts, I can remain calm. Calm is good.

Counter-terrorism special forcesGETTY

Counter-terrorism special forces at London Bridge

Calm keeps people alive. Panic is the enemy. My first reaction was actually annoyance.

“Here we go. The two losers I helped get nicked have friends,” I thought. “They must be here after me. I have to fix this.”

They started kicking the door. I knew it wouldn’t hold for long, maybe just seconds. My mind, continually working, assessing and correcting, processing all the information available.

“Oh no. This isn’t three losers having a go, this is something else. This is serious.” I raised my hands, moved instantly into combat stance. Years of training have come to this.

I can and I will fight, I will defend my friends. Whatever the cost. The mind processes everything, so quickly, so precisely, when you’re calm.

As the terrorists were trying to break in, I noticed the knives they had. Christ, they’re large, maybe 12 inches?

I’ve done hundreds of knife defence drills over the years but only against knifes half that size. At most. Still, no time for what-ifs. The door buckled.

The terrorists were coming in and I saw that they looked like they had suicide vests on. Metal canisters with wires. Oh no. In less than a split second I knew that my approach had to change; I couldn’t just attack.

If I charged at them, maybe I could take out one or two. But one of those animals could detonate and kill us all. Too many people would get hurt or worse.

I had to face them, I had to delay them, no matter what. I knew that out of everyone there, my skills and training meant that I had the best chance of delaying the attackers until the police arrived or they’d get everyone.

“Keep them focused on you. Then they can’t hurt the others.”

I knew the police were coming. They had to be. I knew it in my bones.

Buy them time, shield everyone. That’s your only job now. If they get past you, maybe no one goes home.

The attackers stormed in and started yelling, ordering people to “Lie down on the ground! Get down on the ground!” I knew that if anyone did that, they’d be dead. I had to delay them, stall them any way I could.

With my hands up, trying to look non-threatening, I stared back at them and said one word: NO.

Firmly. Calmly. The one in the blue Arsenal away shirt walked toward me, barking “get on the floor!”. Again, I said no.

I took a step back, keeping the knives at a distance and tried to keep them talking, not attacking anyone. “Talking is good. It buys time,” I said to myself.

“They aren’t stabbing, they aren’t exploding. Keep them away from everyone else.” Most of my friends and the staff had hid under tables or in rooms but one, a young lad, was frozen behind me.

PoliceEPA

Police near London Bridge after reports of terror attack

Keep the kid behind me was my only thought. The attackers were getting agitated and kept yelling. “This is it,” I thought. Their eyes were full of rage. Hate.

It was about to go down.

You may lose track of certain details during life and death situations but some are indelibly stamped into your mind. The creature in the Arsenal shirt snapped and came at me first, then his clean shaven accomplice.

I had no idea where the third, the one with the full beard, had run off to. I could only deal with what was in front of me.

During the blur, the Arsenal attacker struck at my throat, but I must have blocked enough of the knife to make sure it didn’t kill me outright. Or maybe he was just that poorly trained in knife combat that he just failed.

The cut marks on my hands suggest I tried to catch the blade. In any case, he failed to kill me.

The Arsenal with the face fuzz tried stabbing me in the stomach but I guess the training kicked in, as I instinctively leapt back and all I got there were very small scratches on my stomach. As I dodged those attacks, I think I may even have got a hit in.

I have no idea where a third slash, which hit my chin, came from. To be honest, I can’t be totally sure about the exact sequence of how the attack took place, it was over so quickly.

Geoff HoSC

An officer helps Geoff who has blood pouring from his neck wound

I fell down, but still on my feet, clutching my throat. Our assailants had run off. My friend was lying behind me, in a ball, clutching his face. He had a facial wound, but we had no time, we had to go.

“Come on mate, we’ve gotta go.” I grabbed and bundled him towards the restaurant’s staff changing room. We helped make sure we moved onwards. Carrying each other, we made it.

While he locked the door and I clutched my neck to try to staunch the bleeding, I gave him my phone and told him everything he needed to tell the police, quickly and precisely.

Just facts. He did and as he talked on my phone, he rummaged around the staff locker room to find more clothes to use as makeshift bandages to help me try and stop my bleeding.

At this point, I thought I had done my bit and was ready to stop. Stop talking. To sit. To close my eyes. But the lad kept me talking. That probably kept me alive.

Within seconds armed police were on the scene. I told them calmly, succinctly, what had happened, what the attackers looked like and that they had suicide vests on.

They radioed the information in and quickly escorted me and my friend out of the Black & Blue.

Outside, the atmosphere was chilling. Yes it is summer, but the air was colder.

It was like a war zone.

Sirens everywhere. Screams. I know the market like the back of my hand and knew where our armed escort was taking us; down Stoney Street, turn left towards London Bridge and the paramedics and ambulance on it.

Suddenly the radios blurted something and we were forced to double back and run another route through the market.

Then I heard the shots. Rapid bursts of fire. Bang. Bang, bang. Bang, bang, bang.

It didn’t click until a few minutes after just what had happened. Our armed police guard left me and my friend with a colleague on the steps of Padella on Borough High Street, a popular, cheap, authentic Italian restaurant that attracts serious queues.

An off-duty paramedic and policeman both rushed to tend to our injuries. They assessed us and ushered us on to the bridge, in different directions, to the ambulances.

As the policeman helped me across London Bridge, I asked, begged, pleaded with him: “Make sure we get them. SCO19 [armed police] has to get them.”

His radio went off and he turned to me and after he said don’t worry, he said the three greatest words I’d ever heard: “We got them.”

Relief flooded me and I continued to run towards the other side, to where an ambulance was supposed to be waiting.

Except the ambulance wasn’t there, it was still en route, forcing me and my police escort back on to London Bridge. The blood was pouring from my neck, reducing my shirt to a rag and the taste of my own blood was all I knew at that moment.

I sat down and was assessed by the paramedics, who were amazing. Fast and professional, they coolly assessed, triaged and treated victims.

No time for emotions, just get the job done and get people out alive. I got tagged with a yellow 2, which seemed serious.

Groans filled the air, over the sounds of orders being barked to move people, to treat some immediately, to leave others for later, as their lives weren’t under immediate threat.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw blood on my trainers. I stared at it and raised my head, which is when I noticed the red tag just yards from me.

It was on a person who had been completely covered. Oh no. Please no. I didn’t have time to mourn as my police guard grabbed me and hauled me into an ambulance.

Inside there was already a man being frantically treated for multiple stab wounds to the back. Then another paramedic yelled to clear room for another patient, who had suffered head and neck wounds and was bleeding profusely, too.

He couldn’t get in, so I jumped out of my seat, still clutching my left hand to my neck to keep control of my own bleeding, and grabbed him with my right hand and pulled him in. The paramedic jumped straight in behind us and got to work on him, as the driver gunned the engine and made sure we all got to hospital at breakneck speed.

At the Royal London Hospital, the staff were in full battle mode, treating everyone, whirling in a hive of activity. Controlled chaos.

I saw the man I had helped pull on to the ambulance wheeled past in the A&E corridor and I implored him to make it.

He waved and gave a thumbs up.

Then the doctors grabbed me and hauled me into surgery. I awoke on Sunday morning and every face I saw was beautiful. The surgeons, the nurses. All amazing.

Police and ambulance crewsGETTY

Police and ambulance crews help victims on London Bridge after the terrorists

Somehow I had made it. They told me to rest and that I was making strong, surprising progress. That relief lasted 90 seconds though before the panic set in. I didn’t have my phone.

Where was it? I had no idea how to tell people I was okay. I couldn’t even speak. What about everyone in the restaurant? Did my friends make it out alive?

Were my parents, my family okay? Social media gets a lot of criticism, but in an emergency, this one, it proved to be a godsend.

One of my closest friends back in Melbourne, Isabelle, was watching the news and saw what had happened.

Although frightened, she went into action and somehow, through the grand efforts of her and tens of dozens of my friends, people thousands of miles away on the other side of the planet that had never met before, they began to piece together what had happened to me on the night.

That helped bring relief to my family and friends in the UK and all over the world, who were frantic with fear.

The fact I’m still getting messages on my phone from that weekend, from people imploring me to say something, to check in and say I was okay, astounds me.

It has made me realise just how damn lucky I am. My oldest friend Nadeem, who I’ve known since I was nine, raced in his car to raise the alarm with my parents on Saturday night, sadly without initial success after they couldn’t be reached on the phone.

But eventually he got through to them. My neighbours George and Simoney at the FT, friends and fellow financial journalists, found me in hospital and quickly spread the word that I had survived.

My parents burst into the ICU along with them and dozens of my closest friends, (including crying women who I really want to comfort).

All these wonderful people from completely different walks of life. Here for me. The best news was to come just hours later, when my old friend Vijay, turned up with my phone.

Somehow out of the chaos, he had managed to track down my phone! I finally had the means and found out that all my friends in the Black & Blue had survived.

That was one of the sweetest feelings in the world, second to when I finally saw them on Monday.

We hugged. We cried. We were alive and still together, which is all that counts.

One of my kickboxing friends Steve, who knowing of my current woes with women and wanting to make things better, took matters into his own hands and signed me up for the dating app Tinder.

He gleefully posted the news on social media, which caught fire. Say what you want about Steve, he genuinely wants people to be happy and in this case, not only have I got a few dates out of this, but Tinder has donated money to the British Red Cross and the London Air Ambulance Service. Result!

The trickle of visitors that started on Sunday morning had within minutes became a flood, which became a tsunami by Monday.

Friends of mine who had never met previously, or had lost contact with each other, soon found themselves in the waiting room in the Royal London Hospital and getting on like a house on fire.

It was like This Is Your Life but better, as it featured my friends, family, loved ones, all the people that have ever mattered to me.

The letters, care packages and messages of support from friends and colleagues all over Fleet Street, papers and broadcast, brought tears to the eyes.

On Monday, Sky Sports’ excellent boxing pundit, Spencer Fearon, an honest, insightful, inspiring figure as you’ll ever hope to meet, marched in with the gift of fruit and words of comfort for me and my parents.

He commended me for my actions and then said hold, I have Lennox Lewis on the line! Holy moly, the former world heavyweight champion! As a boxing fan, I was thrilled. The champ was talking to me!!!

We had a quick chat about life in Britain before he thanked me for my actions and hung up. Buzzing, I was elated when Spencer put British 2016 Rio Olympic boxing hero and just turned professional boxer Joshua Buatsi on.

He too had nice things to say and wished me well.

Geoff HoGEOFF HO

Geoff Ho is visited by Prince Charles at the Royal London Hospital

The following day I awoke to the sounds of frenzied whispers and an air of excitement.

The nurses and doctors were buzzing as we were about to receive a royal VIP visit and I had less than an hour to make myself presentable. After being bundled to the nearest shower, I somehow made myself a bit more presentable and sat down in my seat next to my bed.

Then His Royal Highness Prince Charles and Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall entered. The pair were utterly, irresistibly charming.

They thanked the doctors and nurses for their efforts and spoke with all of us, for a good amount of time. Prince Charles shook my hand and thanked me for my actions and before I knew it, we were engaging in small talk.

It started off with the wondrous healing powers of Earl Grey tea and delights of proper shortbread. Unfortunately I then uttered the word “architecture”, which I suspect immediately changed something in the Duchess’s demeanour.

She retreated with a sort of pirouette escape move, one that I imagine has been executed quickly and flawlessly over many years, and she moved to comfort other patients.

The Prince and I happily discussed how we both despise brutal, 1960s concrete office block abominations, as well as the need to better protect our environment.

Then they were gone, whisked off by their minders to carry out more of their Royal duties. Except it didn’t seem like a duty to them, in that they were tasks to be endured and completed.

His Royal Highness seemed to enjoy and relish them. He is a remarkable man, with a wonderful partner.

On Thursday I got a package from Manchester United, who I have supported as man and boy. It turns out that Isabelle, Nadeem and Sky News’ Faisal Islam – a fellow Red – had got in touch with the club and had helped organise a signed shirt.

I’m holding it now and it’s already one of my most treasured possessions.

People have called me a hero. I don’t think of myself that way. All I did was help a man in trouble and then minutes later put myself between the terrorists and my friends and the innocent people in the area.

Hopefully I did some good. I think I did. I owe too many people a debt of gratitude for what they did that day.

Geoff HoMARK KEHOE

‘I owe too many people a debt of gratitude for what they did that day’

Me and my friends wouldn’t be alive without the brave men and women of the Metropolitan Police, London Ambulance Service, the British Transport Police, who dived in with no thought for their own safety.

Those guys are the real heroes.

They do it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They are heroes who never get time off.

Then there are the amazing NHS doctors and nurses, who with their skills, care, dedication, courage and stamina, treated us and ensured that everyone that was attacked and got to hospital that night came through. We need to cherish these people, not in the aftermath of a crisis, but every moment beforehand.

It’s the least they deserve.

I don’t know how I can repay the massive debt I owe everyone for what they did for me and so many people that I care about, but I swear that the second I get out of hospital, I will make a start.

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