Finsbury Park terror attack: Brave victim Yassin Hersi speaks out after leaving hospital
- Credit: Archant
A good Samaritan injured in the Finsbury Park terror attack told how he was the last person to speak to victim Makram Ali.
First aider Yassin Hersi was tending to Mr Ali after he collapsed in Seven Sisters Road at about 12.20am on Monday. Moments later, a van came speeding towards the group, which had assembled after Ramadan prayers at the Muslim Welfare House.
A post-mortem today found Mr Ali died of “multiple injuries”, making it likely the attack was the cause of his death.
Mr Hersi, a married dad of four, said he was lucky not to die. He escaped with a broken right ankle, with damaged tissue in his left foot.
Speaking to the Gazette at his home in Malta Street, Finsbury, Mr Hersi recalled: “We were doing night prayers at Muslim Welfare House. I was walking in Seven Sisters Road when I saw the man collapsed on the floor. I thought he had had a heart attack.
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“I’m trained in first aid, so I was tending to him, asking if he was OK, keeping him awake. People were following us from the mosque and asking us: ‘What happened? What’s going on here?’
“All of a sudden, I heard something coming towards us. I didn’t see. If I had seen it, I would have got out the way. I fell down and saw the man bleeding. He was unconscious, not moving at all.
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“I was the last person to speak to him. Before the attack, he was saying: ‘It’s OK, it’s OK. I’m not bad. Is there an ambulance coming?’ I think the shock of the attack contributed to his death. I was shocked and panicked myself.”
Mr Hersi, whose wife is Holloway councillor Rakhia Ismail, said he couldn’t recall the exact moment he was hit.
“I think I am very lucky,” he said. “I think the van ran over my feet. All I heard was a ‘vroom’ and then it hit the wall. I struggle to recall it as it happeneded so quickly. I think it was going at 50mph. I think he planned to run over all of us before escaping.
“I couldn’t feel anything at the time, so I got straight back up. But obviously I fell because of my injuries. There were people with more serious injuries than me. My thoughts are with Mr Ali.
“The driver came out of the van and tried to escape, but the crowd caught him. People said he was shouting: ‘I want to finish all Muslims.’ The atmosphere was panic, anger, confusion. We’d just been for prayers – we didn’t expect a tragedy.”
A suspect, 47-year-old Darren Osborne, continues to be questioned by police in connection with the attack.
Mr Hersi said: “This kind of thing keeps going on: London Bridge, Finsbury Park. It’s so upsetting. He [the perpetrator] is a terrorist, just like the London Bridge people were terrorists.”
Islington responded with typical defiance this week. Hundreds flooded into the Muslim Welfare House on Monday night to lay flowers – and hundreds more attended vigils outside Finsbury Park Mosque on Monday and Tuesday.
Mr Hersi said: “I think in this country, we have one beautiful thing, and that’s peace. This terrorist tried to take that peace away. He wanted to divide our community. But he failed. We didn’t let that happen. Our community has just been made tougher and stronger. I saw it straight after the attack, people of different faiths and backgrounds rushing to help.”
He and Cllr Ismail met Prince Charles last night when he visited Muslim Welfare House.
A concerned Charles asked Mr Hersi, who was on crutches: “Are you sure you should be here?”
And Mr Hersi was impressed: “He was very playful. He comforted a lot of people.
“It meant a lot for the prince and Queen to send a message to the community. The message it sends to the young people of Islington is phenomenal. The next generation needs to see a fine example, and they got that.”
Councillor: ‘Islington is amazing’
The attack hit Cllr Rakia Ismail doubly hard.
Not only was her husband injured, but she had been at the Muslim Welfare House just 36 hours earlier as part of the Islington “Great Get Together”, promoting community cohesion between different faiths and backgrounds.
Cllr Ismail said: “My husband phoned me afterwards. He was trying to play it down, saying: ‘There’s nothing wrong with me.’
“But within seconds I knew it was bad. Our children had seen clips on social media. It was awful. We just put our hands up and prayed. We left everything to God. We feel blessed that he is fine. My heart goes out to the man who died, and his family.”
Of the vigils in Finsbury Park, Cllr Ismail added: “I thought it was the most amazing response. It showed how tight-knit Islington is, regardless of people’s background. That was inspiring for me.”