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Last Updated: Sunday, 2 July 2006, 20:48 GMT 21:48 UK
Images of 7 July: Reluctant hero
Paul Dadge helping Davinia Turrell at Edgware Road

The vision of Paul Dadge dashing across a road near Edgware Road Tube station with injured passenger Davinia Turrell - 'the woman in the mask' - is arguably one of the most recognisable images of 7 July.

Ex-retained fire fighter Mr Dadge, 29, was a dubbed a hero at the time - something he has always played down - and has remained in the public eye since the bombings.

Paul Dadge

Although not caught up directly in the blasts they changed his life, he says, not least in reuniting him with a childhood sweetheart who got in touch after seeing him in news reports.

On 7 July, having been ejected from a Tube train at Baker Street due to "an incident", Mr Dadge was walking towards Paddington when he came across the immediate aftermath of the Edgware Road bombing.

After helping to set up an emergency centre in Marks and Spencer he spent the morning assisting with the co-ordination of hundreds of walking wounded.

At one point everyone was evacuated from M&S and told to go across the road to a hotel, due to a further security alert.

That was when the picture was taken that would later appear on hundreds of newspaper front pages and news websites around the globe.

"At that point [when the evacuation was announced] I was next to Davinia Turrell," says Mr Dadge, who lives in Cannock, Staffordshire, and works part of the week in London.

"I had done a triage card for her. She was just the closest person next to me. A lot has been built up in the press as if we're going to have this big reunion and get married.

"I just said to her 'we need to go and we need to go now'."

Cash offers

"We were the first out of M&S, and I remember vividly it was absolutely silent outside. As we ran across I could see people stood behind the cordon line.

"The photographers hadn't been able to see people coming out of the Tube station from their position - it was as if this was the ideal opportunity for these photographs.

"The one thing I could hear was the sound of the shutters going. Then we started to realise something serious was going on. I remember saying to Davinia, 'I think your picture's going to be in the paper tomorrow'."

Ms Turrell was taken away for treatment and later Mr Dadge walked to work in Hammersmith, west London, where he works as a moderation co-ordinator for AOL.

"When I got there at about 2.30pm two guys in reception said 'are you ok Paul?' I didn't even know who they were. They said my picture was everywhere."

"I felt quite proud. This whole thing has changed my perspective on London. I had felt it was quite an ignorant city. But I know now if something happens the person next to you will help you - I still stand by that."

That afternoon when he signed on to his MSN account he says it "went ballistic" as everyone tried to get in touch after seeing the pictures.

When a BBC producer got talking to him at King's Cross on 8 July he decided to engage with the media.

"I felt if I didn't speak it wouldn't ever go away. I thought it would give me a way to find Davinia [whom he has since met again], and to pass a message to the terrorists, who at that point we thought were still at large."

I'd got no urge to be a politician or stand on a soapbox - I've been given an opportunity, I could have walked away or I could have done what I've done

The frenzy around finding 'the woman in the mask' was such that Mr Dadge was offered up to 25,000 to take part in a 'reunion'.

"I wasn't in the mood to be discussing this kind of thing with the press. I had had a girlfriend who was a journalist, and I know they often get wrongly labelled, but these guys were being really shady."

He has never earned money from the interviews he has done, he says, although he has considered writing a book.

Ms Turrell has chosen so far not talk to the press, he says, which is a decision he respects.

"It's very hard to be in an image and for that to be seen as iconic. I think the frenzy was whipped up around the fact that no-one saw what Davinia looked like."

Girlfriend reunion

Mr Dadge is often called upon to talk about 7 July and terrorism issues and has taken part in official reports into the authorities' response to the attacks.

"I feel like I have a purpose. If I have an opinion on something terror-related I know I can get it aired. That's quite powerful.

"But I'm just a member of the public. I'd got no urge to be a politician or stand on a soapbox. I've been given an opportunity - I could have walked away or I could have done what I've done."

Mr Dadge has a belief in fate which he says is strengthened by the fact that not only did he take a different route than usual on 7 July, but he very often finds himself in the thick of dramatic incidents - something for which he is infamous among family and friends.

"Two weeks after the bombings I caught a bag snatcher; I once found a dead body in a lay-by, and have witnessed numerous fatal accidents."

But one person who is no doubt glad Mr Dadge was in the right place at the right time on 7 July is his 28-year-old girlfriend, whom he first went out with when he was 11 years old.

"I got a message from her after the bombings. We got back together and we've been together ever since."

Interview: Paula Dear




SEE ALSO
Ex-firefighter assists passengers
08 Jul 05 |  Staffordshire

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