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Statement from AC Neil Basu re Westminster terror attack inquests

News   •   Oct 03, 2018 18:39 BST

"On 22 March last year, five people lost their lives during a horrific act of terrorism in Westminster with devastating consequences for their families, friends and those who tried to help them. My thoughts and condolences are with all those who have been affected by this terrible act.

"My thoughts, too, are with all those who died and their loved ones; the friends and families of Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes, Aysha Frade, Andreea Cristea and PC Keith Palmer.

"Today, following inquests into the victims’ deaths at the Old Bailey, the Chief Coroner, His Honour Judge Mark Lucraft QC concluded that they had been unlawfully killed by 52-year-old Khalid Masood.

"The Chief Coroner said: 'due to the shortcomings in the security system at New Palace Yard, including the supervision of those engaged in such duties, the armed officers were not aware of the requirement to remain in close proximity to the gates. Had they been stationed there, it is possible that they may have been able to prevent PC Palmer suffering fatal injuries'.

"The Chief Coroner has plainly carried out a rigorous and full enquiry and we unreservedly accept his conclusions.

"Even the possibility that the MPS lost the chance to prevent the murder of a brave and courageous officer is unacceptable. For the loss of that possibility to protect him from Khalid Masood, we are deeply sorry.

"Security arrangements have been substantially changed since the terrible events of 22 March 2017. However, everything that we can possibly do to improve the position further, and we await the Chief Coroner’s detailed conclusions, will be done.

"My thoughts are with PC Palmer’s family who lost a husband, father, brother and son in shocking and tragic circumstances when Khalid Masood carried out his murderous actions.

"My thoughts are with all those who died and their loved ones:

54-year-old Kurt Cochran from Utah in the United States, who was visiting London celebrating his 25th wedding anniversary with his wife Melissa;

75-year-old Leslie Rhodes from south London, a retired window cleaner, who was walking on his own over the bridge;

44-year-old Aysha Frade, who was British with family links to Cyprus and the Spanish principality of Betanzos, married with two young daughters. She had just left work and was heading home;

31-year-old Andreea Cristea, an interior designer from Romania, who was in London sightseeing with her boyfriend;

And 48-year-old PC Keith Palmer – a well-loved colleague who died while protecting the public and Parliament from an armed terrorist.

"The attack shook the public and police across the country – not least in the Metropolitan Police Service, where we continue to come to terms with the loss of PC Palmer, who was our colleague but also a friend to many across the Met Police.

"What is also clear, however, is that PC Palmer acted with tremendous bravery and heroism in confronting Masood at the gates of Parliament in carrying out his duties as a police officer. His courage will never be forgotten. I speak on behalf of colleagues from across policing in expressing our deepest sympathies to PC Palmer’s family and the families and loved ones of all the victims at this difficult time.

"My thoughts are also with the many survivors who were injured during the attack, including some of our officers.

"I would also like to praise the efforts of members of the public and first responders from the emergency services, who offered immediate assistance and comfort in the aftermath of the attack and praise the tremendous work of the NHS and other partner agencies who have provided ongoing assistance and support to the victims and their families.

"The attack, which lasted just 82 seconds, was carried out by British-born Khalid Masood. He drove a hired vehicle across Westminster Bridge, colliding with pedestrians before crashing into the Northperimeter wall of the Palace of Westminster. Masood, armed with two knives, then ran through Carriage Gates, the vehicle entrance to the Palace and fatally stabbed PC Palmer.

"Masood was shot dead by armed police. A jury is being summoned to hear the inquest into Khalid Masood’s death, which is scheduled to start tomorrow.

"Following 22 March, 2017, immediate reviews were carried out, including an independent review by Sir Jon Murphy, the former Chief Constable of Merseyside, who scrutinised security on the Parliamentary estate. These reviews have led to significant changes to security at the Palace of Westminster, which were implemented prior to the inquests.

"These changes cannot be disclosed to the public because it would undermine security but we have shared them with the Chief Coroner in liaison with the Palace of Westminster.

"We have also worked closely with other agencies, including the Palace of Westminster, the local authority and highway authorities to strengthen protective security measures at Parliament and in the surrounding the area.

"Westminster was the first of five appalling terrorist attacks in the UK last year – four of which occurred in London. These attacks prompted a number of internal reviews by the police and MI5, which were independently assessed by David Anderson, the former independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, who reported to the Home Secretary last November. We remain committed to doing everything we can to deter, disrupt and avert attacks.

"We are continually reviewing our security arrangements in London and the rest of the UK to reflect the threat we are facing and we liaise regularly with local authorities, other partners and businesses, providing advice on protective security measures to counter the threat from terrorism.

"The public showed tremendous resilience throughout and continues to do so in the face of the threat from terrorism. Every day that resilience is also demonstrated across the UK by thousands of police officers, like PC Palmer, who play their part in the fight against terrorism.

"Finally, I would like to thank the Chief Coroner for carrying out a full and forensic examination of the circumstances around this attack. We must now take the time to consider all of the coroner’s conclusions in full."