Spanish witness: How I escaped injury during the London terrorist attack

Spaniard Manuel Labrado, who was on the scene thanks to his unusual hobby, explains what he saw

A medic moves the Portuguese man who was helped by Manuel Labrado after the attack.
A medic moves the Portuguese man who was helped by Manuel Labrado after the attack.Getty

My name is Manuel Labrado, I’m 43 years old and I’ve been living in Paris for three years. I was in London on the day of the attack because I’m a big fan of “Swinging London,” the music and the culture of London from the 1960s. Given how quickly the Eurostar train gets you to London, every year I go on a trip for two or three days to visit some of the legendary sites from the era, such as Soho, the Marquee, and to places that appear on the covers of albums by Jimmy Page, Ray Davies, The Who, Pink Floyd…

On Wednesday morning, I was walking to Richmond. It’s a neighborhood on the outskirts, on a bend of the River Thames. It’s a really pretty area with some very impressive mansions, such as the houses of Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones and Pete Townsend from The Who. Both of them have houses in the same street. I had a Coca-Cola in Richmond Park, and as I had already walked a long way, I took the Underground to get back to the center, in the direction of Westminster. Whenever I go to London, I like to take a selfie emulating the legendary photo from My Generation, by The Who, in front of Big Ben.

When I got to the station, I climbed the stairs and went to take the photo. I was about to cross the street, when the traffic light turned red and the cars stopped. I was waiting to cross and suddenly I saw something black go past at great speed, and three people went flying. I heard a very unpleasant sound. A few seconds later and it would have hit me. The car was already running people over before it passed me but with the noise of the traffic I hadn’t seen it. This was at the end of the bridge already, next to Big Ben. The people who were killed in the attack were behind me, in the middle of the bridge.

Once the car had gone buy I saw a young man on the ground right in front of me. He said to me, “Help me please,” so I approached him. Just a few meters away there was another girl whose head was bleeding. I started talking to him and he told me he was Portuguese. I said to him, “I saw you go flying through the air.”

I think I was there with him for 15 or 20 minutes, although it’s difficult to know. I tried to give him encouragement. I said to him, “You’re a hero, you’re going to get better.” I was really impressed to see that he didn’t shed a single tear. I was almost crying myself, but he was really calm. His legs were shattered, he had tried to jump on top of the car but it had struck his legs, he had cuts and he was bleeding, and he also had injuries to one hand. I still have bloodstains on my jacket from when I was with him. It also seemed to me that his legs were bent in a strange way.

He told me his name was Francisco and that he was Portuguese. He told me that his father owned a bar in Calalberche, an area in Toledo. I’m from El Arenal, in Ávila, which is near, and I pass by there when I’m traveling from Madrid to my home village. He told me that he had heard shouts, that he had looked back and had seen a car traveling at high speed and that he had tried to protect himself, or to jump to avoid the impact, but that he was unable to avoid it. The car had also hit two other people, I think one was a Romanian girl, and the other an Italian girl.

The car had passed just four or five meters away from me. I was the first to get to where Francisco was lying. Soon there were a lot of police cars, ambulances and police officers with machine guns on the scene.

I didn’t find out about what happened in parliament until later. What I did see was that on the bridge there were groups of injured people, but in a street with so much traffic, with two or three lanes on each side, I didn’t see the car coming. When it went past me, I just saw a black car, but it was impossible to tell what make or model it was, or to see the license plate, it was all so fast.

Then the police arrived to where I was. An officer asked me for my personal details. I gave him my name, Manuel Labrado, and my phone number. He said: “We’ll probably call you,” but they haven’t been in touch. The police told me that I could go. That doctors and ambulances were on their way.

I think that the Portuguese guy just had slight injuries in the end. He had to get stitches in his hand and in one leg, where he had the biggest impact, but he was out of danger and they have already discharged him from hospital.

That day, I didn’t get my photo in front of Big Ben. I later told my family what had happened. And the next day, as I had planned, I went back to Paris by train. I’ve been living there for three years with my wife and two children. I work at a hotel near the Champs-Élysées.

I’ll carry on going to London, despite the attack. Every year I need to have a dose of Swinging London and remember that there was once a more romantic time.

This text was written by Miguel Jiménez based on the testimony of Manuel Labrado. English version by Simon Hunter.

More information