Armed police ‘nowhere to be seen’ when officer was slain, inquest hears
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.
The last known picture of PC Keith Palmer was taken with US tourist Staci Martin hours before his death