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Vital minutes lost as Westminster victim held face down in River Thames

6:37 pm, 13th September 2018

Crew on a passing clipper boat were unaware of the chaos on the bridge after Khalid Masood drove his car into crowds of tourists and thought Andreea Cristea’s body could have been in the river for some time.

She was held in the Thames by a boat hook, floating face down in the water.

CCTV footage shown in court at the fourth day of the inquests of the Westminster terror attacks show Captain Gordon Markley asking if it was a “wind-up” before going outside with a boat hook.

Skipper Danny Cooper admitted he thought the 31-year-old’s body was “garbage”.

He said: “We presumed it was a body that had been in the water for a long time and by pulling on a dead body that has been in the water it was just going to fall apart.

“It wouldn’t have been nice for anyone involved. There were children sitting downstairs.”

Mr Cooper said he did not believe he and the captain could have lifted her out of the water, despite her being “5ft 5in and of slim build” according to one of the lawyers.

When asked if he could have done anything to check if she was alive, Mr Cooper said: “I don’t know”.

Gareth Patterson QC, representing Ms Cristea’s family, said she had been face down in the river for two minutes when she was first secured, but remained immersed for five minutes before she was brought out by firefighters.

She died in hospital on 6 April.

Her boyfriend Andrei Burnaz told the inquest of his desperate search to find her after they were both hit by Masood’s car while walking through London to meet a friend.

Mr Burnaz said his girlfriend had taken a picture of the London Eye moments before the car hit her.

:: ‘Chaos, just chaos’: Terrifying accounts of Westminster attack heard at inquests

He was hit, and described feeling a “burning sensation” on his foot, while hearing bangs and screaming around him.

He said: “I looked in the left side of me to search for Andreea but I did not know what happened.”

He called Ms Cristea’s phone, and thought it was a good sign when it rang, but later found it in a pool of blood next to her glasses.

Despite seeing police officers around the bridge, he said it took a while for officers to respond to his pleas to help find his girlfriend.

He was so desperate he considered jumping in to the river to look for her himself.

Mr Burnaz said: “Nobody took action about nothing, about my girlfriend and I informed her that I think Andreea was hit by the car and she was in the water right now.

“She didn’t do anything about this just took my birth date and some information about me.

“She pressed the button on the radio and informed her other colleagues about what happened, about what I said.

“That’s the first time when anybody took action about this.”

Masood mowed down dozens of pedestrians when he carried out a terror attack on Westminster Bridge on 22 March, 2017, killing four people.

He also stabbed police officer Keith Palmer to death before he was shot by a plain clothes police officer.

The inquests into the deaths continue.