Firearms police absent as Pc was killed
FIREARMS officers were “nowhere to be seen” for at least 46 minutes before Pc Keith Palmer was stabbed to death during the Westminster terrorist attack, an inquest has heard.
Pc Palmer, 48, was positioned on the Carriage Gates outside the Houses of Parliament when he was stabbed to death by Khalid Masood, 52, in March last year.
Dominic Adamson, representing the murdered officer’s widow Michelle, said the gates were regarded as “one of the most vulnerable areas of the New Palace Yard to an attack” and one of the most “identifiable and exploitable weaknesses”.
“The evidence will show that for at least 46 minutes there is no evidence of authorised firearms officers (AFO) present or in close proximity to the gates.”
He suggested the arrangements meant an unarmed officer would be left with a can of CS “spray and a baton against a large man armed with two knives”. “It’s not an equal fight, a spray against knives,” he said.
Pc James Ross, a former AFO, who was also unarmed and on duty at the time of the attack, told the court that armed officers used to be stationed at the heavy open gates but in 2017 they had moved to a “roving patrol”. Officers ran to help Pc Palmer, after Masood had crashed his hired car and run into New Palace Yard, where he stabbed the officer who had stumbled by a low wall.
One of those was Pc Ross, who was on duty nearby when a passer-by shouted in his face: “There’s a man with bloody big knives running this way.”
He told the inquest: “I saw the suspect had a knife in each hand with blades around a foot long and he was stabbing PC Palmer in and around the head area. He was hitting with such force that the blade was bending.”
Pc Ross said he was trying to take his CS spray out and when he looked back he could only see Masood. He went on: “The attacker was walking towards me. He had the knives in his hands. I had a moment at that time I have never been able to remember, from when he was walking towards me. I still have no recollection of it.”
Asked if he thought he would have been able to take an effective shot at Masood, had he been armed, Pc Ross said: “From where I was the attack was too close to Keith. It’s very hard to say.”
Masood was shot dead by a plainclothes officer – understood to be the personal bodyguard of Michael Fallon, the former defence secretary.
Witnesses told the inquest a man could be heard urging Pc Palmer to fight for his life, shouting: “Keith, come on son,” as members of the public tried to save his life.
Pc Palmer’s sisters failed in an attempt to adjourn the inquest at the Old Bailey. Susannah Stevens, representing the sisters, Angela Clark and Michelle Palmer, told the Westminster Bridge Inquest: “The family are extremely distressed by the fact that nobody from the Metropolitan Police spoke to them to let them know there was any issue [lack of unarmed officers].”
Nicholas Moss, counsel for the Parliamentary Authorities, opposed Ms Stevens’ request for an inquest jury to be brought in, saying: “Pc Palmer’s death resulted from Masood’s evil actions, full stop.”