Published: 00:00, 31 August 2017
| Updated: 09:25, 31 August 2017
A man who tried to save the life of a dying woman, while being stabbed in the back himself during a terror attack, has called for restraint in the aftermath of the atrocity.
Dartford-born Hassan Zubier is now facing life in a wheelchair after being knifed four times in last Friday’s attack, which left two women dead and several injured in Turku, Finland.
But paramedic Mr Zubier, who was born in Kent to an English mother and Egyptian father, says he is glad the attacker was not killed by police, and that racists taking vengeance on refugees need to look closely at what happened – as it was himself and another foreign man that tried to stop the knifeman.
Mr Zubier, speaking from his home in Stockholm on Thursday last week, said: “In all of this there was a man called Hasan who tried to stop him. This attacker put his knife in the left side of his neck all the way down.
“Now I’ve been hearing there have been attacks on foreign refugees. Someone knifed a refugee last night – I’ve said from the beginning they should remember there was a person called Hasan and another one called Hassan in the same place trying to save Finnish lives.
“This was two foreign guys trying to save lives. All these racists have forgotten this. This needs to be said over and over again. Everyone who’s racist needs to know this – we risked our lives.”
But even that is an understatement - because the 46-year-old put his life on the line with no regard for himself while the knifeman ran riot.
Mr Zubier had been on holiday with his girlfriend, having travelled to the north of his adopted home country of Sweden and back down through Finland to Turku. He recalls the last seconds before that holiday turned to horror in vivid detail.
“We were walking over the square and came up to the two girls standing beside a newspaper stand,” he said. “I looked at one of the girls, and we had eye contact for three seconds.
“She was talking to her blonde friend, and we walked about 15 metres on. Then one of them screamed.” When Mr Zubier turned around, a scene of terror was unfolding with people running and one of the girls being knifed on the ground.
He said: “I ran to him screaming. He looked up and ran away. I ran after him two to three metres and then stopped and turned around and saw her wounds.
“I immediately went to her and put my fingers down into her throat to find the artery and stop the bleeding. She was still alive.”
But he says he was shocked to find few people were reacting to the attack: “I was looking around. No one was helping, no one was doing anything. There were lots of people. Maybe some were frozen, but some were filming. Then I saw the man coming back, he came at me and I kicked him and he ran away.
“I saw a girl and said ‘you, call the ambulance now’. She looked a bit surprised but she the took the phone and started calling.”
Still attempting to save the dying girl, Mr Zubier then realised he might have been wounded himself.
“I told my girlfriend ‘look, what’s happening? I think I’ve been stabbed’. I found the wound and stopped the bleeding. I lifted up my T-shirt. He had gone and I put the T-shirt into my wound.”
With his girlfriend standing by him, he saw the attacker – who was targeting women – was heading toward them for a third time.
“I said to my girlfriend ‘get out of here’, so she started to run. He came at her with the knife. She fell and he missed her but cut her arm. It wasn’t much, like a paper cut. She rolled on the pavement and he went to her standing above her.”
As the attacker’s arm was raised to stab his girlfriend, Mr Zubier decided he had to leave the dying girl to go to her aid. I stood up, then I felt I had a wound. I was numb. I tried walk up to him. I screamed ‘look at me! Look at me!’
“Somehow in the middle of stabbing he turned around, I said ‘come here, look at me’. I don’t know if he stabbed me at that moment, but I’ve got two wounds on my chest, so it might have been then. Then he ran away. I asked my girlfriend if she was OK, and then I went back to the girl, and put my fingers on her throat again.”
It was then that an off-duty nurse and doctor nurse came to his assistance, while all around people were either filming, screaming or just watching: “Me and the doctor looked at the girl that was attacked and we said ‘no, she’s gone. We can’t do anything.’”
When emergency services arrived, it was apparent Mr Zubier was terribly wounded, and he was taken to hospital.
While he refuses to call himself a hero, he says he felt no fear in the attack, and said others too should also have stepped forward: “I was more shocked that he came back because my knowledge was the terrorist does what he does and goes off, but he was trying to kill me because I was trying to save her. That was shocking but I wasn’t afraid.
“There was one girl that called the ambulance, one nurse and one doctor. All the other people just looked and filmed. I’m really angry. That makes me more angry than being wounded.
“People want to be famous and feel they’ve got the right to show what’s going on, but they don’t care if people are getting injured in the process.”
Although it felt a lot longer, Mr Zubier estimates the attack lasted only two to four minutes – yet his ordeal has only just begun as he begins treatment for his wounds – principally a knife wound to his spine which has left him with limited movement in one arm, and very little movement in his legs. Showing the same resolve he showed in the face of horror, he remains resolute about his future.
“I’m alive,” he said. “I’ve had four stab wounds. Any one of them could have killed me easily, so I’m just happy to be alive. I can’t do paramedic work but I can do other things. I’m still talking and thinking. Of course I’m really upset, but I’m still alive.”
All he will say of the attacker himself is that he is glad he is likely to get life imprisonment rather than the death penalty, and stressed that people should remember he was an individual not a representative of others.
But has he any thoughts about that individual?
“There’s a Swedish newspaper and the reporter there asked the same question,” said Mr Zubier, before falling silent for a few seconds. “I was quiet and he didn’t know what to say. The thing is he’s not even worth a word.”
A Moroccan asylum seeker has since admitted stabbing two women to death in Turku. Abderrahman Mechkah denied murder but said there was no terror motive to the attack. The court in Turku ruled the 18-year-old, who appeared via video link, should be remanded in custody. He was shot in the leg by police following the stabbings in the main market place in Turku, on Finland’s south west coast.
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