The London Bridge attackers tried to decapitate one of their victims, an inquest has heard.
Marie Bondeville, who was attacked in Borough Market, said the men “tried to cut my head off”, as they began slashing her neck following a sustained knife attack on her upper body.
Bondeville and her partner, Oliver Dowling, had been celebrating moving into a flat together at nearby Lobos Meat and Tapas shortly before they were set upon by Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba on 3 June 2017.
In a statement read at the Old Bailey, she described seeing one of the men “walking like he was a boxer going into a fight” as they approached the couple near the bridge.
“I felt a punch on the right side of my face,” said Bondeville, adding that she heard Dowling shout before watching him fall to the ground at the same time as her.
She was then stabbed 18 times as she lay with her legs on the pavement and torso on the road – although at the time Bondeville had believed she was being punched.
“There were times when I’m sure I was being hit twice, at the same time,” she added. At one point, she had tried to reach out her hand to touch Dowling but could not. She said: “I thought he was dead, I was begging them to stop. At the time, I thought it went on for about 10 minutes but I’m sure it was only a few seconds.
“The worst part of all of this wasn’t the attack or the pain but the thought that Oliver was dead because of me.” She said thought he had died because he tried to protect her.
Bondeville described the eyes of one of the attackers as “like a junkie” and “empty”.
She added that she had been aware of people running past and not stopping to help, although she had blacked out after feeling as though she had “been hit with a hammer or an axe”.
After being taken to a London hospital, Bondeville was put into an induced coma for a week by doctors. She sustained 18 stab wounds and 23 cuts and scars. She added that she “clearly remembered” the events “because of the traumatic impact it had on my life”.
Dowling also survived the attack, and was taken to University College hospital, where he was treated for stab wounds to his face, neck and stomach.
In a separate statement, Dowling said that during the attack he had heard Bondeville shouting, “What are you doing, leave him alone,” and also initially thought they were being punched by the attackers.
He added that he thought Bondeville had died until paramedics began treating her.
The inquest also heard evidence from British Transport Police officer Wayne Marques, who witnessed part of the attack on Bondeville and Dowling. He described how he had heard Dowling begging one of the attackers to stop before he was stabbed in the back and neck “without hesitation”.
“I knew I didn’t have long before he was probably going to die in front of me,” said Marques. He then charged at the attacker with his baton from 12 metres away, delivering a blow to his head.
As he fought off the first attacker, two other attackers circled him. He said they “were moving around trying to cut me and stab me”.
During the struggle, Marques felt an “unnatural shuddering” in one of his legs and realised one of the attackers was moving a knife up and down in his leg.
He said the attackers were “cold and calculated” and described how they moved in “a formation”.
“They had a system in place. That suggested to me that they knew what they were doing,” he added.
Marques told the inquest that if he had waited for armed police to arrive, the men would have continued to attack victims who were lying injured on the floor. “I just tried to hold on as long as I could,” he said.
Marques was awarded the George medal for his bravery last year.
The inquest continues.