MI5’s failure to show a clear photograph of the 7/7 ringleader to a key informant was criticised by a coroner as she announced her findings about the attacks.
Lady Justice Hallett said the 52 victims of the July 2005 London bombings were unlawfully killed by four Muslim extremists from West Yorkshire and rejected claims that security agency failings caused their deaths.
But she strongly criticised the “dreadful” editing by MI5, also known as the Security Service, of a sharp colour picture of 7/7 plot leader Mohammed Siddique Khan, who lived in Dewsbury, and his number two Shehzad Tanweer.
The pictures were taken at a motorway service station in February 2004.
The cropped grainy black-and-white image of Khan was meant to be shown to al Qaida supergrass Mohammed Junaid Babar, who had met the British jihadist at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan.
But the picture was never put in front of Babar, apparently because its quality was so poor.
Khan, Tanweer, former Rawthorpe High School student Jermaine Lindsay and Habib Hussain later went on to carry out Britain’s worst terrorist atrocity.
The coroner also voiced concerns about MI5’s inability to investigate Khan in detail after undercover teams watched him travelling lengthy distances to meet fertiliser bomb plot mastermind Omar Khyam more than a year before the London atrocities.
She said: “I am concerned about the fact that the Security Service’s other commitments prevented a more intense investigation of a possible terrorist, who made long and suspicious journeys to meet known terrorists at a time when they were obviously planning an attack.”
Lady Justice Hallett ruled that none of those killed in the attacks would have survived even if help had reached them sooner.
But she made seven recommendations for the emergency services and Transport for London aimed at preventing other deaths in the future.
Throughout the long hearing, there had been repeated criticism of delays in getting rescue workers to the scenes of the Undergound bomb blasts in particular.
Emergency service chiefs have praised the bravery shown by firefighters, paramedics, police, Underground staff and members of the public on July 7 – but the ambulance service admitted its performance could have been better.
Those involved in responding to the bombings said they would take time to digest the coroner’s recommendations.
London Ambulance Service chief executive Peter Bradley said: “These have been very difficult proceedings for everyone involved and I hope that in some small part the London Ambulance Service has been able to answer some of the questions that have been raised by the loved ones.
“I am pleased that the coroner has recognised the bravery, care and treatment London Ambulance Service gave on the day, but at the same time I recognise certain aspects of our response should have been better.
“We have made a number of improvements since July 2005, but we will now reflect on the recommendations from the coroner and we will take action on the recommendations.”
London Fire Brigade commissioner Ron Dobson said: “We thank Lady Justice Hallett for her careful consideration of the evidence presented at the inquest and will now examine her findings in depth.
“Today our thoughts are with those who were injured and the families and friends of those who lost their lives, including our London Fire Brigade colleague Lee Baisden. I would also like to thank the London Fire Brigade staff for their dedication, hard work and commitment shown in their response to the 2005 London bombings.”
Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Chris Allison said police would respond to the coroner’s recommendations “quickly”.
“It is important today to think of the friends and family of those who were murdered on July 7, 2005 and all those who were injured on that day. Our thoughts are with everyone and that date will have an everlasting impact on those people,” he said.