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Met ‘deeply sorry’ over Westminster Bridge attack failings

Inquest rules deaths were 'unlawful' but family hits out

05 October, 2018 — By Tom Foot

PC Keith Palmer and, right, Khalid Masood

THE Met Police said this week it was “deeply sorry” for potential security failings that may have allowed Westminster Bridge attacker Khalid Masood to murder of one of its officers.

Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu was speaking after inquests into the deaths of Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes, Aysha Frade, Andreea Cristea and PC Keith Palmer, who died in the attack on March 2017.

Mr Masood drove a car down Westminster Bridge killing them before stab- bing the police officer to death.

At the Old Bailey, the coroner, Judge Mark Lucraft QC, ruled this week that all of the victims had been “unlawfully killed” by the 52-year-old.

He also said armed officers should have been told to stand closer to the entrance to Parliament at New Palace Yard.

PC Palmer’s widow, Michelle Palmer, had said in a statement that the authorities had let her husband down by failing to protect him and let the family down by failing to investigate his death properly.

Speaking afterwards, assistant Commissioner Neil Basu said: “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 Metropolitan Police Service 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.”

He said that PC Palmer had acted with “tremendous bravery and heroism” in confronting Masood at the gates and that his “courage will never be forgotten”.

He added: “We continually review the security arrangements in London and the rest of the UK to reflect the threat we are facing.

“We have also carried out various reviews to make sure that we, along with the security services and other partner agencies, are doing everything we can to deter, disrupt and avert attacks.”

Coroner Lucraft, following a month-long hearing, praised in his ruling the “great dignity” of the families throughout the process.

He found that on Masood had driven a hired SUV at an average speed of 30 to 42mph with “clear murderous intent”, killing four pedestrians and seriously injuring 29 others, before attacking PC Palmer. In her statement, Ms Palmer said: “How could Keith have been left alone, unarmed, guarding an open gate at one of the most iconic buildings in the world and one of the country’s top terrorist tar- gets?”

She added: “What makes it even worse is that this lax security had been carrying on for years and it has taken what happened to Keith for things to change.”

The parents and sisters of PC Palmer, who would have turned 50 on Wednesday, said the inquest had been “traumatic” and “extremely difficult”. They said the coroner should have gone further in his findings, accusing senior Met Police officers of closing ranks.

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