The fiancee of the first victim of the London Bridge attack in 2017 has told an inquest she had “premonitions about terror attacks” the day he died.
The body of Xavier Thomas was found in the River Thames after he was struck by a van driven by three attackers.
Mr Thomas’s girlfriend Christine Delcros, who was also badly hurt, wept as she gave evidence at the Old Bailey inquest into the eight victims’ deaths.
She told the court she was still “madly in love” with Mr Thomas.
The couple had arrived in London from Paris on the morning of 3 June for a weekend of sightseeing, the court heard.
Ms Delcros said Mr Thomas, 45, had arranged for them to have a cocktail in the Shard that evening.
“I had so many premonitions about terror attacks from the day before and I could feel it,” she said.
But Mr Thomas had persuaded his girlfriend to stick to the plan.
“Not to disappoint him I said OK,” Ms Delcros told the court.
At about 21:30 BST they decided to walk across London Bridge from their hotel, the Four Seasons, Ms Delcros said.
Ms Delcros said she remembered feeling something was “not normal” as they walked on the bridge.
“Suddenly I was under the impression there was a lot of light and a van that mounted the pavement in the exact fashion to make sure they were not going to miss us,” she said.
“I just heard myself say to myself, ‘That’s how one dies, that’s it.'”
‘Madly in love’
Ms Delcros broke down in tears as she recounted lying on the ground thinking “the curtain had fallen” and she had died.
As she came in and out of consciousness, she asked where Mr Thomas was, the court heard.
The father-of-two had been thrown into the River Thames when the van hit him.
The court heard Mr Thomas’s body was found by police more than a mile and a half from London Bridge, near Shadwell Basin, on 6 June.
His cause of death was given as immersion.
Speaking in French, Ms Delcros said she was still “madly in love” with Mr Thomas and “nothing would destroy that” connection.
As he gave the court her comments in English, the translator had tears streaming down his cheeks.
A police officer in charge of a patrol boat at the scene said his team had been “desperate” to find anyone who might have fallen from the bridge.
PC Nicholas Bultitude said his team did not use an infrared camera on their boat because it was “more practical” to search visually.
He told the court his team covered “every inch of that portion of the river” and that if Mr Thomas had been on the surface he would have been seen.
Dominic Adamson, representing Mr Thomas’ family, questioned PC Bultitude’s decision to abandon the river search after gunshots were heard so he could warn crowds on the South Bank of the danger.
But PC Bultitude replied: “When I made the decision, so far as I was concerned, if someone has gone in then tragically they are lost.”
Witness Holly Jones said she remembered seeing the French couple looking “very happy together” seconds before the attack.
Ms Jones said she was “frozen in fear” when she saw the “demented” driver, Youssef Zaghba, heading towards her.
“It was a feeling I described as like being punched into the chest,” the BBC journalist told the court.
“Something in the back of my mind told me to get out of the way. I jumped to the right towards the railings,” she said.
The witness said she felt the “wind of the van” as it sped past her.
Ms Jones said she then went to help Ms Delcros and told police to check the water for Mr Thomas.
Zaghba, 22, and his accomplices Khuram Butt, 27, and Rachid Redouane, 30, were shot dead by police after killing eight people and injuring 48 others around Borough Market.
On Wednesday the inquest was told Mr Thomas and a second victim, Christine Archibald, 30, might still be alive if barriers had been put up following the Westminster Bridge attack, which took place two months earlier.
The other victims were Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sara Zelenak, 21, Kirsty Boden, 28, Sebastien Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, and Ignacio Echeverría, 39.
United by grief
Hanna Yusuf, BBC reporter, at the inquest
The hearing ended for the day as it had started – with emotions running high.
Xavier Thomas’s girlfriend, Christine Delcros, appeared distressed in the courtroom.
With eyes closed and the tips of her fingers to her temples, she listened to analysis of how Mr Thomas had gasped for air upon entering the cold Thames and drowned as a result.
Sitting next to Ms Delcros was Christiane Pesez, Mr Thomas’s mother.
She had her head lowered and tears streamed down her face as she heard of her son’s last moments alive.
Her husband and Mr Thomas’s stepfather, Philippe Pesez, stared into space – a display of grief in one of its various forms.
As the hearing drew to a close, the final witness of the day, Tanya Lunt, struggled to contain her emotions the moment she started speaking – remembering back to that day in June 2017 when she realised that a deliberate attack was happening.
Mark Roberts was among a group of people who had set up tripods on London Bridge to take photographs of Tower Bridge.
He told the court on Thursday he saw the van moving at about 30mph or 40mph as it hit a group of people.
He said: “It looked to me it was deliberately steering and aiming at the people. At that point it started driving along the pavement towards me.”
Mr Roberts said he thought he was “next in line”, but suddenly the van veered towards a group of people running away.
He told the court one woman was thrown into the air “like a rag doll”.
The inquest continues.