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Terror ringleader tried to hire 7.5-tonne lorry hours before London attack

The potential for large vehicles to inflict mass casualties was laid bare in horrifying fashion last year when a lorry drove through crowds in Nice.

The ringleader of the London Bridge terror gang tried to hire a 7.5-tonne lorry hours before the attack, police have revealed.

Detectives suspect the carnage inflicted could have been even worse if Khuram Butt had not failed to secure the vehicle because his payment did not go through.

Instead he resorted to “plan B” and rented a white van which ploughed into pedestrians as the perpetrators launched their deadly rampage last Saturday night, killing eight victims and injuring dozens more.

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The van used in the London Bridge attacks (Metropolitan Police/PA)

After leaving the vehicle, the terrorists used 12in ceramic knives with pink blades in a stabbing spree.

Meanwhile, almost a week on from the atrocity, detectives have made their 20th arrest.

Scotland Yard said a 28-year-old man was held on suspicion of terror offences following a raid in east London.

Officers entered a residential address in Barking shortly after 2am on Saturday.

It brings to seven the number of people being held in custody in connection with the incident.

Earlier on Saturday police said a 27-year-old man had been arrested in connection with the attack during a raid in Ilford, east London.

He was also held on suspicion of preparing terrorist acts and taken into custody while police searched the two properties.

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Of the 20 people arrested in connection with the probe, 12 have been released without charge.

One man arrested on suspicion of drugs and firearms offences was bailed until a date in late June.

It also emerged that multiple petrol bombs were found in the van used in the outrage, while a copy of the Koran opened at a page “describing martyrdom” was discovered in the east London bolthole where the three men plotted the attack.

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One of the knives used in the London Bridge attacks (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Commander Dean Haydon, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Counter Terrorism Command, revealed that Butt had attempted to hire a lorry online on the morning of the atrocity.

He said: “Because of the fact his payment method failed he couldn’t get hold of that lorry.

“My view at the moment is that he then went to plan B and ended up hiring the van instead.”

The van travelled over the bridge twice before it was driven at speed at pedestrians.

It is thought three victims were killed on the bridge – including one man who was thrown into the Thames – before the attackers left the vehicle and stabbed five people to death around Borough Market.

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Police believe Butt was driving the van.

Mr Haydon said: “When I come back to Butt trying to get hold of a 7.5-tonne lorry – the effect could have been even worse.”

The potential for large vehicles to inflict mass casualties was laid bare in horrifying fashion last year when a lorry drove through crowds gathered to celebrate Bastille Day in Nice, killing 86 people and injuring scores more.

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