Woman describes confronting Woolwich killers
Witnesses say pair who beheaded soldier wanted to get caught
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett speaks to one of the two men arrested at the scene of the Woolwich murder yesterday.
Police at the scene where a man was murdered in John Wilson Street, Woolwich, south London. Photograph: Nick Ansell/PA Wire
A woman who risked her life to confront an armed man suspected of slaughtering a British soldier in broad daylight has described how she tried to calm him moments after the barbaric attack.
Her bravery - and that of others who tried to reason with the killers - has been praised, particularly in the wake of amateur footage from the scene, which shows one of the two suspects making political statements about the slaughter while still brandishing weapons.
Cub leader Ms Loyau-Kennett was speaking today ahead of a meeting by the Government’s emergency response committee, Cobra, which is due to discuss security measures following the attack.
Ms Loyau-Kennett, of Helston in Cornwall, told ITV Daybreak she initially thought the victim had been injured in a car crash after spotting a badly damaged vehicle on a pavement at the scene.
She said: “I went to the guy and when I approached the body there was a lady cradling him. And then (one of the killers), the most excited one of the two, said, ‘Don’t go too close to the body’.
“I thought, okay. And because I was down I could see a butcher’s knife and an axe - that’s what he had - and blood. I thought, what the heck? I thought obviously he was a bit excited and the thing was just to talk to him.”
Ms Loyau-Kennett said she tried to reason with the killer in an effort to focus his attention away from other potential victims, as large crowds began to huddle at the scene.
She said: “I know it’s big today but for me it was just a regular guy, just a bit upset. He was not on drugs, he was not drunk.
“He said, ‘Don’t touch, I killed him’. I said, ‘Why?’ He said: ‘He’s a British soldier. He killed people. He killed Muslim people in Muslim countries.’
“And I said: okay. So what would you like? I tried to make him talk about how he felt. He said all the bombs dropping and blindly killing women, children...
“More and more people were starting to come. There were so many people around. I just looked around and I found it so daunting.”
However, Ms Loyau- Kennett said her thoughts were to “just carry on” talking to the man, while several woman arriving at the scene tried to shield the victim.
She said: “I wanted him to concentrate on me and make sure he doesn’t have a funny idea.
“He (the killer) told me he was a British soldier - he didn’t look like a British soldier to me, he wasn’t in uniform. But I thought if another one passes by, or is in the area...”
Asked if she was scared, the woman replied: “No - better me than a child. Unfortunately there were more and more mothers with children stopping around, so it was even more important I was talking to him and ask him what he wanted.”
Other eyewitnesses described seeing the “crazed” Woolwich attackers “hacking” at their victim and posing for pictures before charging at police wielding meat cleavers.
One onlooker, identified as James, said he saw two black men chopping at a man in his 20s like he was “a piece of meat”.
He told LBC radio: “They were hacking at this poor guy, literally. They were hacking at him, chopping him, cutting him.”
Describing the murderers as “animals”, he told how he saw them drag their victim from the pavement into the middle of the road. “These two guys were crazed,” he said as he fought back tears. The witness added that they then stood around, waving knives and a gun, asking people nearby to take pictures of them “as if they wanted to be on TV or something”.
He said they were running up and down the road, urging people to take pictures. “In my opinion, they were waiting for the police to arrive to be shot by the police. That’s the only thing I can think,” he said.
When armed police arrived 20 minutes later, “the man with the beanie hat, the tall guy, he charged at the police vehicle,” James said.
Another witness, Julia Wilders (51), who lives near the scene, said she saw one of the attackers run towards police clutching two meat cleavers. “He ran towards police before they could even get out of the car, and it looked like the other one was going to lift the gun up,” she said. “We were driving back and my husband said to me ‘don’t look, they’re resuscitating someone’. But apparently they were stabbing him.”
Local resident Graham Wilders (50), said: “As I drove round I saw a man lying on the floor. “It looked like another man was trying to resuscitate him, but then he pulled a handgun out in the air.” He said the person with the gun was a black man, wearing a black top, jeans and a hat. Mr Wilders added: “I saw a bunch of school kids come up. I shouted at the teachers, ‘get the kids in school because there’s someone there with a handgun’.”
Mr Wilders told the BBC: “Apparently they actually ran the car into him and knocked him down before they did anything.” He then described how he saw one of the men pull out a handgun.
“It was a gun that looked as if it could take about 12, 15 rounds so I definitely know it was handgun because I actually seen it in his hand,” he said. “He didn’t fire the gun. All I heard was four shots when the Trojan people turned up. These men actually went for the police with the machetes, knife and handgun. “I don’t think they cared. I don’t think they really cared because they went for the police with a handgun. The police were the only ones who did any shooting.”
Witnesses also took to Twitter to describe the dramatic events and post photographs, which quickly spread online and on television news programmes.
One user, writing on the account Boyadee, said he saw two men decapitate another man in front of him as he went to a nearby shop. He suggested that the men looked like they were on drugs, waiting for the police to arrive and then going towards them with “just two machete and an old rusty lookin revolver”.
“I couldn’t believe my eyes. That was some movie s***,” he wrote. “The two black bredas run this white guy over over then hop out the car and start chopping mans head off with machete.” He then described a female officer “taking out” one of the men “like Robocop”.
Joe Tallant (20), saw one man holding a gun and a knife, and another holding two knives. He described how he saw the victim on the floor and the men asking onlookers to call the police. “I looked on the floor and I saw a dead body and then I saw one of the men walking around the body. He was telling people to call the police and then five to seven minutes later the police came.
“They walked towards the police car with their weapons and a police lady jumped out and shot them both.”
He added: “They (the men) had the gun out and they were walking towards them casually with their arms by their side. “I think there was a bit of twitching going on and then it all happened in a flash.”
Mr Tallant also said one of the men insisted that “only women” should approach the victim.