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July 7 families mark anniversary
Bereaved families and survivors of the July 7 bombings spoke of their determination to ignore graffiti daubed on the Hyde Park memorial to the victims as a ceremony marking the ninth anniversary of the atrocities took place.
The red and black graffiti, with messages such as "4Innocent Muslims"; "Blair Lied Thousands Died"; and "J7 Truth", was cleaned off the columns of the memorial hours before families of those who died, survivors and emergency workers gathered for the ceremony in Hyde Park, central London.
Elizabeth Nicholson, a 31-year-old administrative worker from Bristol, whose sister, 24-year-old Jennifer, was killed in the Edgware Road bomb, said the event was a means for people to "show their love" for the victims and she had no interest in the apparent graffiti protest.
"I have no interest in dwelling on it (the vandalism) it is not something I consider to be important. I am here for my sister, I want to celebrate her," she said at the ceremony.
"She was very beautiful, vivacious, and full of life. She had a smile that if she walked into a room, it would light it up. She was such a beautiful human being. It feels like part of me has been ripped away. It is something that does not change, it is not a feeling that diminishes with time, it becomes part of your life."
Jacqui Putnam, who survived the bombing on the Edgware Road train, and has since become a Red Cross First Aider and a peace worker, said: "This is not a political memorial, this is not a political event, it is not there to make a political statement. What they did was a childish gesture and it has no place in an event like this."
She added that it was "really important" that the loss of life and the pain caused to their families of the bereaved was remembered.
"It is easy for this to become a statistic, but I think it is very important that we remember that each of the 52 people were individuals with families, friends and lives and futures and there are people who will not now be born.
"This kind of terrorist activity is not done in a vacuum, it happens to real, living, breathing individuals, people with lives, and we should never lose sight of that."
Susan Verghese, 34, who survived the bombing between King's Cross and Russell Square on the Piccadilly Line, who is now studying for a Masters in humanitarianism and conflict response at Manchester University, told the ceremony that she had experienced the "best and worst" of humanity on the day of the attacks.
"I stand here not now in defeat by my experience but as an individual who has risen above my trauma no longer allowing it haunt me but instead turning it into an inspiration to do good," she said.
Earlier in the emotional event, a minute's silence was held, and the names of the dead were read before flowers were laid at the base of each column of the memorial, honouring the 52 dead in the attack at the hands of four suicide bombers on London's transport system in 2005.
Those attending 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 the Prime Minister David Cameron, Labour leader Ed Miliband and former Labour minister Tessa Jowell and London Mayor Boris Johnson.
A handwritten note signed by Mr Cameron, who earlier said he "unreservedly" condemned the vandalism, said: "In memory of the victims of the London terror attacks, on July 7 2005. You will never be forgotten."
Mr Johnson, who said he was "shocked and saddened" by the vandalism, said in a handwritten note: "In memory of those who died on July 7 2005, and on behalf of all Londoners. We will never forget you, and this city will never give in to those who would try to divide us."
Scotland Yard said police had launched an investigation into the vandalism.
A statement said: "O fficers 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.
"The graffiti consisted of several short sentences written in red and black paint and has now been cleaned off the memorial.
"Inquiries continue led by officers from Westminster - there have been no arrests at this time."
Anyone with information that could help the investigation is urged to call 101.
The Muslim Council of Britain condemned the vandalism.
"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," a spokesman said.
"This monument to those who lost their lives should be considered as a point of solemn reflection and unity for us all."