An inquest into the murders of eight people, including two Australians, at London Bridge and nearby Borough Market has heard details of the final, terrifying moments of the victims and the dramatic fight for survival of dozens of others.

Three women and five men were killed when three terrorists ploughed into crowds in a white van before going on a stabbing rampage with 30-centimetre knives on June 3, 2017.

The Australian victims were Sara Zelenak, 21, and Kirsty Boden, 28. Zelenak was killed after she had just left the London Grind bar and is believed to have separated from her friends as they tried desperately to escape. The au pair from Brisbane was stabbed multiple times.

Boden, a nurse, was killed when she went to help injured victims on the bridge. The South Australian suffered horrific wounds after she turned towards the danger to see if she could help victims of what she must have thought was a car crash on the bridge.

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The inquest heard she managed to stumble into a nearby alleyway, where she collapsed and died.

The other victims were Christine Archibald, 30, Xavier Thomas, 45, Alexandre Pigeard, 26, Sebastian Belanger, 36, James McMullan, 32, and Ignacio Echeverria, 39.

Their attackers, Khuram Butt, 27, Rachid Redouane, 30 and Youssef Zaghba, 22, were gunned down by police soon after the attack began.

In his opening address at London's Central Criminal Court, also known as the Old Bailey, Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC said the events of June 3, 2017 had "torn apart" the lives of many people.

"The lives of many people were torn apart by what took place in less than 10 minutes of high and terrible drama," he said.

"In addition to the eight people who were killed, 48 more were seriously injured. It is important to acknowledge that many lives were saved by the rapid response of members of the public and by members of the emergency services."

'ZIGZAGGING ACROSS THE BRIDGE'

That night, the UEFA Champions League soccer final had just finished and the pubs and bars of London Bridge where full of people. The attack started half-an-hour after the match ended — the first sign anything was wrong was a white van speeding erratically over London Bridge, "zigzagging" across the road as it mowed down pedestrians.

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The inquest will hear from witnesses and relatives of victims of the terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in June 2017. Photo / Twitter
The inquest will hear from witnesses and relatives of victims of the terror attack on London Bridge and Borough Market in June 2017. Photo / Twitter

Two of the victims, Archibald and Thomas, died here — Archibald was caught under the front wheel of the van and run over, while Thomas was thrown into the air by the force of the impact and over the bridge railing into the Thames. His body was recovered days later.

As the van drove across the bridge it repeatedly mounted the pavement and struck many people walking there. Two people walking across the bridge, Xavier Thomas and Christine Archibald, were killed as a result. A number of others were seriously injured when they were hit by the van.

"The van then crashed into the railings outside the Barrow Boy and Banker pub, just south of London Bridge," Lucraft said.

'INDISCRIMINATE' ATTACK

Almost immediately, the attackers got out with the large kitchen knives tied to their wrists and what appeared to be explosives strapped to their bodies.

He continued: "They made their way towards Borough Market, attacking more people as they did so. James McMullan, Alexandre Pigeard, Kirsty Boden, Sebastien Belanger, Sara Zelenak and Ignacio Echeverria Miralles de Imperial were all victims of the attacks in this period of time. The three attackers who assaulted them were Khuram Butt, Rachid Redouane and Youssef Zaghba."

Lucraft said they began to attack "indiscriminately" — some victims were chased, and one, Sebastian Belanger, a 36-year-old French national, was "cornered" and set upon by all three as he bravely tried to fight them off.

"He was stabbed many times and sustained quite horrific injuries," said the coroner. "He collapsed where the attack took place."

The first Australian victim was killed about this time, too. "Sara Zelenak was walking down the stone steps from Borough High Street to Green Dragon Court when the van crashed into the wall," said Lucraft. "She was with a friend and the two of them walked a little way back to see what had happened.

"Sara was stabbed multiple times while close to the steps. She was found by officers close to the top of the stairs.

"Alexandre Pigeard was working as a waiter at the Boro Bistro. He was stabbed near the steps down to the Bistro after going to investigate. He managed to walk back along the wall path as far as the corner by the entrance into the terrace of Boro Bistro.

"He then collapsed, but was attacked again. He too suffered horrific injuries and died where he had fallen. Khuram Butt had stabbed him."

Next came the horrifying death of Boden, who ran to help people on the bridge. She came face-to-face with the terrorists.

South Australian nurse Kirsty Boden, pictured with partner James Hodder, was killed while trying to help the injured. Photo / Supplied
South Australian nurse Kirsty Boden, pictured with partner James Hodder, was killed while trying to help the injured. Photo / Supplied

"Butt, Zaghba and Redouane, walking in that order, walked along the path towards the entrance to Boro Bistro's outside seating area," said the coroner. "Where the path turns left at the corner of the boundary wall with Southwark Cathedral, Butt made a swinging motion towards Kirsty before continuing almost to the doorway of Boro Bistro. Zaghba and Redouane continued to attack Kirsty and Alexandre Pigeard, who had collapsed.

"Kirsty ran through an alleyway to The Mudlark pub nearby. She died in the alleyway from her injuries."

James McMullan had been watching the football match with some friends in The Barrowboy and Banker pub on Borough High Street. After the match, he had left the pub to go and have a cigarette nearby. He was later found lying face down in alleyway.

The time now was 10.09pm. The terrorists continued their rampage, stabbing people who ran through Borough Market to look for safety. Some they stabbed even while they were injured on the ground.

It was while these assaults were taking place that Spanish national Ignacio Echeverria Miralles de Imperial, who had been cycling with friends, came across the scene. "Ignacio hit Redouane and possibly also hit Zaghba with a skateboard that he had with him. Again, his courageous efforts were to seek to stop the attack. In the course of doing what he did, he was fatally stabbed outside the Lobos restaurant.

"After killing Ignacio, the three attackers jogged along the west pavement of Borough High Street. They stabbed several more people as they did so. Although a number of those they attacked received serious and life-changing wounds, there were no — thankfully — other fatalities."

'THERE'S A HOLE IN OUR HEART THAT WILL NEVER HEAL'

Boden's father Ken paid tribute to his daughter, who was dubbed the "Angel of London Bridge" by British media, saying she was "always willing to lend a hand".

He said the family "miss Kirsty every second of every day", adding, "There's a hole in our heart that will never heal."

Mr Boden recalled how they would have long conversations on Skype on Sundays, catching up with her life. "Sunday nights will never be the same for us," he said.

He and wife Tina treasured their memories of visiting the young woman in the UK from their small town of Loxton, in South Australia's Riverland region.

"On our visits to London to see our amazing girl, Kirsty was our guide showing us her London and surrounding towns. All Kirsty's patience was required as she took her country parents from city to village. We had so much fun during our time spent together and it has given us so many precious memories."

It will also hear why Khuram Butt, left with fellow terrorist Rachid Redouane, was able to plan and carry out the attack while he was being investigated by the security services. Photo / Supplied
It will also hear why Khuram Butt, left with fellow terrorist Rachid Redouane, was able to plan and carry out the attack while he was being investigated by the security services. Photo / Supplied

He said he and Mrs Boden had been "quite relaxed" when their son Chris visited England for a university exchange, "knowing Kirsty was there to help him out should he need it."

He added: "Kirsty meant the world to us and we are so proud of our beautiful, independent, adventurous, brave, kind daughter, sister and partner. Kirsty we will love you forever."

SARA WAS IN WRONG PLACE AT WRONG TIME: MUM

Zelenak's mother, Julie Wallace told the court her daughter shouldn't have even been near London Bridge — she was supposed to work, then got the night off, and then changed her plans to go out in Soho.

"On that fatal night, every sliding door slid for Sara to be in harm's way," Wallace said.

"At 10pm Sara's phone rang and her friend said 'I've finished at the rugby' and so she left her safe haven at the Grind Hotel and walked out into a terrorist attack and was stabbed to death."

Her death had impacted everyone in their home town.

"Everyone that knew Sarz or lived in our town in the Redlands, Queensland, Australia has been affected. No one has ever died from a terrorist attack in the Redlands. That only happens on TV in another country. It couldn't be real, I thought — well, unfortunately it does happen and it's a world problem."

Since the tragedy, she and husband Mark have founded a not-for-profit charity that aims to help people who have suffered traumatic loss.

Sarz Sanctuary will offer a wide variety of healing options to help those suffering grief, from the unexpected traumatic death of a loved one, "to find the hope and peace they deserve."

INQUEST WILL SEE FOOTAGE OF THE ATTACKS

The inquest has been set down for eight weeks before a separate hearing for the attackers which will take place before a jury.

It will hear from witnesses, family and friends of the attackers, and family and friends of the victims.

Evidence is expected to include mobile phone footage of the attack captured by members of the public, CCTV footage of the attackers and the attacks, as well as video from body-worn cameras of police officers.

The London Bridge attack came just three months after a similar one on nearby Westminster Bridge, during which passers-by were mowed down by a hire car and a police officer stabbed to death.

The inquest is expected to cover why there were no barriers to protect pedestrians on London Bridge installed after the earlier atrocity.

It will also hear why one of the attackers — Khuram Butt — was able to plan and carry out the attack while he was being investigated by the security services. A senior officer from MI5 is expected to give evidence later in the inquest.