By Mark Tran for The Guardian
Survivors of the 7 July bombings in London have spoken out angrily at the defacement of the memorial to those who died in the attacks, describing the vandalism as "childish".
Jacqui Putnam, who survived the explosion in the Edgware Road train, said: "It's an immature act by young people who don't understand the impact of what they're doing. It's childish. Once they're older they will realise this. This is not a political memorial."
Overnight on Sunday, the 3.5m (11.5ft) pillars had been daubed with red and black slogans saying "4Innocent Muslims", "Blair Lied Thousands Died" and "J7 Truth".
By the time survivors and relatives had gathered in the morning sunshine to mark the ninth anniversary of the attacks in which 52 people were killed, all trace of the graffiti had been removed.
In a statement police said: "Officers were called by a member of the public shortly before 3.30 this morning and informed of the graffiti, which is being treated as criminal damage. Inquiries continue, led by officers from Westminster – there have been no arrests at this time."
Four bombs exploded on 7 July 2005, just one day after London celebrated the news that it would host the 2012 Olympic games. Three bombs exploded at 8.50am on underground trains outside Liverpool Street and Edgware Road stations, and on another travelling between King's Cross and Russell Square. An hour later another explosion tore through a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square. Fifty two people were killed as well as the four suicide bombers. A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain condemned the vandalism of the memorial. "This is a shocking case of vandalism which we condemn, 7/7 is an atrocity etched on all our minds, and Muslims joined fellow Britons in speaking out against this terrorism," he said. "This monument to those who lost their lives should be considered as a point of solemn reflection and unity for us all."
The incident was condemned "unreservedly" by the prime minister David Cameron, while Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, expressed his shock and sadness. "It is completely unacceptable and the Metropolitan police is already investigating," he said. "I am pleased that the graffiti has been removed so quickly and that today's commemoration ceremony can go ahead as planned."
Those attending the ceremony included former London mayor Ken Livingstone and Metropolitan police assistant commissioner Cressida Dick. A plaque with the names of the dead at the memorial was covered with bouquets including floral tributes from Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Labour minister Tessa Jowell and Johnson. A handwritten note signed by Cameron said: "In memory of the victims of the London terror attacks, on July 7 2005. You will never be forgotten."
For the survivors and relatives who gathered at Hyde Park Corner, the vandalism was little more than a minor distraction from the main purpose of the day: to remember. On the dot of midday, the Rock Choir of amateur singers sang Both Sides Now, followed by a minute's silence. In short speeches, survivors and emergency services staff described how their lives had changed forever that day.
For Susan Verghese, a survivor of the King's Cross-Russell Square bombing, that meant studying for a masters in humanitarianism and conflict response at Manchester University.
"I stand here not now in defeat by my experience but as an individual who has risen above my trauma no longer allowing it to haunt me but instead turning it into an inspiration to do good," she said.
Tim Coulson, who was on the train at Edgware Road, read out the names of the 52 victims, as sunshine briefly gave way to a few drops of rain.
Sudhesh Dahad, who was in the same carriage as the bomb that went off near Russell Square, said the best tribute to pay to those who died was to live life to the full. Dahad, who underwent spinal surgery for the insertion of two prosthetic discs in his neck after the pain became too much, said: "It's a bit of a cliché, but we should make the most of what we have, go for it, don't hesitate, that is the best tribute we can pay to those who died."
He said he intended to meet some of the challenges he had set himself. Apart from skydiving, the asset investment manager said he intended to hike the 305km between St Bees, Cumbria and Robin Hood's bay, Yorkshire, carrying his own gear.