Armed po­lice ‘nowhere to be seen’ when of­fi­cer was slain, in­quest hears

The Guardian - - NATIONAL - Aamna Mo­hdin

Armed of­fi­cers were “nowhere to be seen” when a ter­ror­ist wield­ing two foot-long knives cut down Pc Keith Palmer in scenes likened to a hor­ror film, an in­quest heard.

Khalid Ma­sood, 52, re­peat­edly stabbed Palmer inside the Palace of West­min­ster and ap­peared “an­i­mated and fren­zied” as he headed to­wards the MPs’ en­trance look­ing for more vic­tims.

For 46 min­utes be­fore, there were no signs of the “rov­ing” firearms squad near the open Car­riage Gates into New Palace Yard where Palmer was killed.

Some col­leagues, with ba­tons and CS spray, ran away when con­fronted by the at­tacker who had a large knife in each hand, the Old Bai­ley heard.

Do­minic Adam­son, rep­re­sent­ing the of­fi­cer’s widow Michelle, said it was an “un­der­stand­able” re­ac­tion to what was “not an equal fight”.

He said the gates were “vul­ner­a­ble” to at­tack and one of the most “iden­ti­fi­able and ex­ploitable weak­nesses”.

He said: “The ev­i­dence will show that for at least 46 min­utes there is no ev­i­dence of au­tho­rised firearms of­fi­cers [AFOs] be­ing present or in close prox­im­ity to the gates in the CCTV footage.”

He told the court when they were needed, they were “nowhere to be seen”.

The in­quest heard that the at­tack on Palmer was like some­thing from a hor­ror film. CCTV footage showed the mo­ments the po­lice of­fi­cer was stabbed. In the footage, Ma­sood ap­pears to bear down on Palmer with a knife in each hand.

In an au­dio record­ing played dur­ing the hear­ing, muf­fled shouts for a medic could be heard and some­one said Palmer’s “pulse is weak”.

A man could be heard urg­ing the of­fi­cer to stay alive, say­ing: “Keith, come on son.”

Palmer was one of five peo­ple killed by Ma­sood, who car­ried out a car and knife at­tack on 22 March last year. Over the course of 82 sec­onds, Ma­sood drove his SUV into pedes­tri­ans, killing Kurt Cochran, 54, Les­lie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and An­dreea Cris­tea, 31, be­fore fa­tally stab­bing Palmer at the gates to the Palace of West­min­ster.

A wit­ness state­ment from Carl Knight, who was sit­ting on the top deck of a bus at the time of the at­tack, was read out to the in­quest. He said he saw Ma­sood get out of the SUV and tell an ap­proach­ing pedes­trian: “Fuck off. You don’t want to mess with me.”

Ma­sood passed through the car­riage gates to par­lia­ment and was con­fronted by Palmer. The in­quest heard that Palmer fell to the ground and Ma­sood stabbed him. In his wit­ness state­ment, Knight said it looked like the “knives were bounc­ing off the of­fi­cer’s jacket”, and he thought Palmer was stabbed around five times.

James West, a char­ity worker who wit­nessed the at­tack from Portcullis House, told the in­quest he saw Ma­sood stab Palmer a num­ber of times. West de­scribed the stab­bing as some­thing “you see in a hor­ror film”. He said he was amazed that Palmer had man­aged to get up af­ter be­ing stabbed.

The in­quest heard that Ma­sood was mo­men­tar­ily dis­tracted by other po­lice of­fi­cers while he was at­tack­ing Palmer, which gave the of­fi­cer some time to run fur­ther into New Palace Yard. Palmer soon col­lapsed and then re­ceived med­i­cal at­ten­tion.

An­to­nia Ker­ridge, a par­lia­men­tary as­sis­tant work­ing in Portcullis House, told the in­quest she saw Ma­sood “lum­ber­ing” around. She saw the at­tacker fol­low po­lice of­fi­cers into New Palace Yard and Palmer fall to the ground, but was un­able to say why he fell.

Af­ter Palmer fell, Ma­sood con­tin­ued to­wards him “and raised the knife quite high” be­fore stab­bing him mul­ti­ple times. She could not say how many times Palmer was stabbed be­cause she looked away.

Ma­sood was shot by plain­clothes armed of­fi­cers. An am­bu­lance ar­rived for Palmer just be­fore 3pm but ef­forts to save him stopped at 3.15pm, the in­quest heard.

Ear­lier, a re­quest by Palmer’s fam­ily to ad­journ the in­quest and call a jury was re­fused. The in­quest heard that Palmer’s sis­ters An­gela Clark and Michelle Palmer were ex­tremely dis­tressed that no one from the Metropoli­tan po­lice had let them know there was an is­sue sur­round­ing the ab­sence of armed of­fi­cers in place to pro­tect their brother. The hear­ing con­tin­ues.

PHO­TO­GRAPH: STACI MARTIN

The last known pic­ture of PC Keith Palmer was taken with US tourist Staci Martin hours be­fore his death

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