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Thursday 19 October 2017

Horror in the heart of London

5 die and 40 injured as attacker mows down pedestrians, stabs policeman and is shot dead

Police close to the Palace of Westminster as they deal with the aftermath of the attack. Photo: PA
Police close to the Palace of Westminster as they deal with the aftermath of the attack. Photo: PA

Five people were killed in a terror attack that brought carnage to the heart of London.

The victims included the attacker, three civilians, and an armed police officer, named as Keith Palmer (48), who was stabbed as he confronted the terrorist.

Mark Rowley, Scotland Yard's top anti-terror officer, confirmed that 40 others were injured after the attacker - armed with two large knives - mowed down pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge then rushed at the gates in front of the Houses of Parliament.

Once inside, he stabbed a plain-clothes policeman before he was shot by armed officers.

Three other fatalities are understood to be people who were hit on Westminster Bridge.

Rowley said police think they know the identity of the man and that Islamic extremism is suspected in the attack.

Prime minister Theresa May said it was a "sick and depraved terrorist attack".

Gunfire

Witnesses described scenes of terror when gunfire rang out as the attacker approached a second officer within yards of the Houses of Parliament.

The attacker was pictured being treated by paramedics on a stretcher, as two knives used in the assault lay on the ground nearby.

Paramedics fought to save his life and that of his police victim on the floor of the cobbled courtyard, with foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood among those who rushed to help.

The police officer was wheeled away on a stretcher with his face covered and it was later confirmed he had died.

Footage later emerged of the moment police opened fire after the attacker drove a grey Hyundai i40 across Westminster Bridge before crashing it into railings then running through the gates of the Palace of Westminster.

London Ambulance Service said paramedics had treated at least 10 patients on Westminster Bridge. A party of French schoolchildren were among those caught up in the terror, with three injured. Two Romanian tourists were also among those hurt.

The threat level for international terrorism in the UK was already listed at severe, meaning an attack is "highly likely".

Speaking outside 10 Downing Street, May said that attempts to defeat British values of democracy and freedom through terrorism would fail.

"Tomorrow morning, Parliament will meet as normal," she said, adding that Londoners and visitors "will all move forward together, never giving in to terror and never allowing the voices of hate and evil to drive us apart".

The attack left a trail of destruction as paramedics tended to victims on the bridge and at the gate.

Witnesses said the attacker was shot by police as he approached a second officer clutching his knife during the incident at about 2.45pm.

The attack took place in the middle of the day, at a time when Westminster was very busy. The entire incident lasted just two minutes.

A London bus driver described the moment he saw the 4x4 plough into pedestrians after speeding across Westminster Bridge.

Michael Adamou (25) was driving the 453 bus when he saw the Hyundai speeding in the direction of Parliament.

He said panic-stricken passengers demanded to get off the bus and moments later armed police swarmed onto the scene and stopped all traffic.

Turning

"As I turned left out of Whitehall, so turning left to go over the bridge, I saw a car knock two people over.

"Initially I thought he's lost control of the car but then I see quite a few people rushing into Parliament and police trying to stop everyone.

"After a few seconds I just heard gunshots. Everybody on my bus was panicking."

He said the driver "just mowed down whoever was in his way".

"I did not see him coming over the bridge but I saw everybody laying on the bridge, not moving."

Mr Adamou said he believed at least one woman had jumped into the Thames to escape. She was pulled from the water and was being treated in hospital.

"He must have come down the whole side of the bridge on the pavement. I would say there were at least 15 or 20 people.

"When I was getting everybody off the bus, because they made us leave the bus on the bridge, I heard one guy come running behind me shouting his wife had jumped into the river to avoid getting knocked down."

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