A Leighton Buzzard man has spoken about how he helped keep fellow diners calm when they were barricaded inside a London restaurant just metres away from where terrorists were attacking innocent members of the public on Saturday night.
Richard Angell, who was brought up in Leighton and attended Cedars Upper School between 1997 and 2002 where he was deputy headboy, was eating at the Arabica Bar and Kitchen in Borough Market when the attackers arrived in the street having begun their killing spree on London Bridge.
The 33-year-old, who lived in Centauri Close on the Planets estate until he went to university, said the restaurant was in lockdown for 30 minutes before police completed their sweeps of the area and they were finally led to safety.
Speaking to the LBO yesterday, he said: “We were at the table nearest the door. Security were telling us to lock the door, duck and take cover. One staff member barricaded the door until the key could be found.”
Richard was one of about 32 diners in the Arabica, but he managed to remain a calm head in the chaotic situation, despite hearing gunfire outside and witnessing awful scenes outside.
He persuaded people to keep back and not leave via the fire escape, while his friend turned out all the lights and candles.
“Everyone was panicking, me and a friend took charge of the restaurant. We took people upstairs and gave them advice,” he said.
“I didn’t see the attackers themselves, but I saw a heroic guy throwing a table and chairs towards them.
“Then I saw a guy leaving the restaurant next door, he had been attacked and was absolutely covered in blood.”
Richard praised the emergency services’ swift response to the attack and for protecting him as they led his group away from the scene.
“I was going through trying to avoid clothing, wallets, shoes – all kinds of debris.
“We were moved once and thought we were safe, but then we were moved again. It was then it hit me what was happening.
“We were the first table by the door in the neighbouring restaurant [from the one the terrorists entered]. Had they just chosen the other door... you don’t want to think about it really. That’s pretty scary stuff.”
He told the LBO that he would be back at the Arabica the minute the restaurant reopens to pay his bill and give them a sizable tip for sheltering him and keeping him out of harm’s way.
Seven people were killed and 48 injured following the outrage at London Bridge and Borough Market after a van drove into pedestrians on the bridge and the three attackers stabbed people in both sites.
But Richard said the terrorists shouldn’t be allowed to win: “We will come through stronger.
“If me having a gin and tonic with my friends, flirting with handsome men, hanging out with brilliant women is what offends these people so much, I’m going to do it more — not less, because that’s what makes London great, makes us the best city in the world.
“Small-minded, cowardly, evil people should not change our way of life. This won’t make me scared on the streets of London.”
Richard, who was interviewed in the aftermath of the incident by the BBC, Channel4, and BuzzFeed News among others, is also a former pupil at Beaudesert and Gilbert Inglefield schools.
He is an ex-chairman of Leighton Linslade Youth Forum and played a major role in fundraising and setting up of both the town’s skatepark and TACTIC centre, and was a Member of the Youth Parliament for Bedfordshire.
Although he now lives in East London, he has family living in Leighton Buzzard and Stoke Hammond and he said he will be back in the area on Sunday for a family birthday – and also “for one or two hugs”.