THE long-awaited inquest into the deaths of 52 people in the July 7 bombings were told this morning their purpose was to focus on each of the victims of the blasts in 2005.

Twenty one people from Barnet, Borehamwood, Haringey, Wembley and Enfield died when four Al-Qaeda-affiliated suicide bombers detonated home-made devices on three Tube trains and a bus during rush hour.

Coroner Lady Justice Heather Hallet told the hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice: "It is in the interests of everyone that these questions are conducted in as open a manner as possible."

Today the hearing, which is expected to last until the spring, started with lead counsel Hugo Keith QC reading out a list of all the victims and a minute's silence in their memory.

He told the hearing: "The bombs struck down men and women, old and young, British nationals as well as foreigners.

"The fallout caused by the bombs caused not only death, devastation and mutilation but unleashed unimaginable tidal waves of shock, misery and horror.

"They were acts of merciless savagery and one can only imagine the sheer inhumanity of their perpetrators."

In his opening, Mr Keith also told the hearing how the initial inquests had been adjourned in July 2007 after three men were charged with conspiring with the four bombers, although they were acquitted of the charges in April 2009.

He also detailed how security services had come across three of the bombers during their investigation into the fertiliser bomb plot, although they were only classed as "desirable" rather than "essential" targets in that scheme.

Mr Keith said: "Even had the security services persevered and interfered, even if they had been made the subject of influence by way of surveilance or a control order, it can't necessarily be supposed that the events of July 7, 2005, would have been prevented."

He detailed the journeys the four bombers made from Leeds, where they had a bomb- making factory in a sub-let flat, to Luton railway station where they boarded a Thameslink train passing through Borehamwood and Hendon before they got off at Kings Cross.

The four were then trailed by CCTV and witnesses, one of whom described them as "very happy, almost euphoric" before they boarded their various Tube trains.

However, officers believe the delay of 23 minutes on the train arriving may have made them revise their targets, with all bombs programmed to detonate at 8.50am.

Shehzad Tanweer boarded an eastbound Circle Line train, with his bomb detonating between Liverpool Street and Aldgate.

Mohammed Sidique Khan, whose wife was pregnant at the time of the attacks, got on a westbound Circle Line train at 8.42, with his bomb detonating just outside Edgware Road station.

Jermaine Lindsay did not get on a Piccadilly Line train until 8.48am, due to delays which meant most carriages were overcrowded already. His device exploded between Kings Cross and Russell Square.

The fourth bomber, Hasib Hussain, was spotted by another passenger sitting on a Northern Line platform at 8.50am.

Officers believe he forgot to pack the battery to detonate his device and had to buy one from WH Smith in the station, before getting a bus to Euston station and boarding the number 30 bus where he exploded his bomb in Tavistock Square.

Police found documents in the Piccadilly Line debris which they believe belonged to Khan show timings to Westminster, Bond Street and Paddinton stations.