The horrors and heroism of Hackney in face of 7/7 terrorist attacks

The driver of the bombed number 30 bus, George Psaradakis, carries a wreath of flowers in memory of

The driver of the bombed number 30 bus, George Psaradakis, carries a wreath of flowers in memory of the victims of the bombing attacks in central London's Tavistock Square. - Credit: PA Archive/Press Association Images

As the tenth anniversary of the London bombings approaches, Mary O’Connor looks at the stories of some of those from the borough affected, including the valiant tale of Stoke Newington bus driver George Psaradakis who dragged survivors from the wreckage of a bus, risking his own life and earning him national recognition

The number 30 double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, which was destroyed by a bomb following the ter

The number 30 double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, which was destroyed by a bomb following the terrorist attacks on the capital (Pic by Peter Macdiarmid/PA) - Credit: PA Wire/Press Association Images

On the morning of the terrorist bombings in London on July 7, 2005, the capital had woken up euphoric after celebrating the success of its bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games a day earlier.

But within seconds, jubilation turned to devastation as four Islamic extremists detonated four bombs across the city’s transport network.

Of the 52 people murdered that day, two of the passengers killed on the number 30 bus at Tavistock Square were travelling to work in Hackney.

But Hackney also had a reason to be proud in the face of terror. The heroic driver of the exploded bus, George Psaradakis, was from Stoke Newington, Hackney.

The Hackney Gazette had gone to press just a day earlier, but its reporters wasted no time in telling the story of the atrocity and its victims.

Software developer Neetu Jain, 37, worked for a computer software company in Hoxton Square, Shoreditch, had been on her way to work from Hendon.

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Having been evacuated from Euston station following the other bombings on the Underground at Aldgate East, Edgware Road, and King’s Cross station at 8.50am, Neetu phoned her sister to say she was safe and getting a bus. But in a tragic twist of fate, she boarded the number 30 bus which was bombed at 9.47am.

Also on board the same bus was Gladys Wundowa, a 51-year-old mother-of-two, who was heading to the Community college on Falkirk Street, Shoreditch, where she was taking a course in housing management.

Gladys, who lived in Chadwell Heath, Essex, worked as a cleaner at University College London, where she caught the bus heading towards Tavistock Square.

But, amidst the horror of lives lost was the heroism of George Psaradakis, then 49, in risking his own life to drag injured passengers from the wreckage of the bus.

Mr Psaradakis’ bus had been diverted because of the stream of commuters coming out of the Tube, needing transport.

After many of them boarded his bus, Mr Psaradakis, who lived on Darville Road, remembered hearing a “bang, then carnage. Everything seemed to happen behind me.”

He continued: “There were many injured people and at first I thought, how am I alive when everyone is dying behind me?”

The Greek Cypriot then began pulling injured survivors from the bus until his back gave out.

Having witnessed death and body parts strewn across the bus, he phoned his wife, sobbing, and said: “My passengers are dead, all my passengers are dead.”

He then walked seven miles to Middlesex Hospital, Acton, where he was treated for shock and released later in the afternoon.

Still wearing his blood-stained uniform, Mr Psaradakis returned home to his flat in the evening to his wife Adriani, and two children, Christina, then 15, and Mario, then 13.

He had been a driver for 20 years prior to the bombings and had only recently returned to work after a heart attack, and was not supposed to be driving the bus that had been making its way from Marble Arch to Hackney that fateful day.

Speaking to the Gazette at the time, Mr Psaradakis was defiant in the face of the terrorists.

He said: “We are not going to be intimidated. Myself and other drivers in London have an important job and we are going to do that as best we can. We are going to continue our normal lives.”

The then Chancellor Gordon Brown, later paid tribute to Mr Psaradakis.

He said: “I want to salute the courage of George. It’s not just that he is here today – it is that what he said and did gave so many people strength to face the last few days.”