Westminster attack: ‘Get out! Get under cover now!’

Boxing team coach and cabinet minister among those who rush to help wounded

An assailant stabbed a policeman and was shot by police just outside Britain's parliament building in London on Wednesday (March 22) in what police described as a "terrorist incident".

It was about 2.40pm and a division bell was ringing, calling MPs to vote on a pensions bill, when shots were heard in the grounds of the Palace of Westminster, one of the most heavily guarded buildings in the world.

Minutes earlier a black car had driven into pedestrians on a footpath on Westminster Bridge, before crashing into a railing outside parliament.

Poland's former foreign minister, Radek Sikorski, was in a taxi crossing the bridge as the vehicle crashed into the railing near Big Ben.

“I heard what I thought was just a collision. And then I looked through the window of the taxi and saw someone down, obviously in great distress. Then I saw a second person down . . . then I saw three more people down, one of them bleeding profusely,” Sikorski told the BBC.


Two people died and at least 20 were injured on Westminster Bridge. Among the injured were three police officers walking back from a commendation ceremony and three teenage secondary school students from Brittany. One woman who was hurled over the bridge into the river when the car drove into her was later rescued but was badly injured.

Black clothes

Moments after the car crashed to a halt, “a thick-set man in black clothes” rushed through the gates of parliament and attacked a policeman with a knife. As the policeman went down, another officer rushed to his aid, but he too was attacked. It was then that shots were heard and the assailant fell.

Ulster Unionist MP Danny Kinahan was inside parliament and on his way to the Commons chamber when he was turned back.

"The bells had just gone for a vote and we, the MPs, were all heading down to the chamber to vote, to be told that there was a lockdown and proceedings were being suspended, and get back to your office," Kinahan told The Irish Times.

“And on the way back to the office,” he added, “we then could hear outside police shouts to someone to get down on the ground and lie down and sort of military organisation and police organisation going on.”

Outside, foreign office minister Tobias Ellwood attempted to give the fallen policeman mouth-to-mouth resuscitation and put pressure on his stab wounds in an effort to stem the loss of blood. Tony Davis, a coach for the British Lionhearts, a boxing team which was visiting Parliament, also attempted to help.

“The attacker has two knives and was stabbing the officer,” one of Mr Davis’s teammates said. “Then shots rang out and the attacker fell to the floor. Tony jumped over a fence and ran to the police officer and tried to revive him. The officer started to fit, but Tony was still working on him. There were lots of officers around, but they were trying to revive both men.”

The police officer died, however, as did the assailant who had been shot.

Parliament lockdown

Inside parliament, those MPs who had already arrived in the chamber were told to remain there while proceedings were suspended. As the entire parliamentary complex went into immediate lockdown, Theresa May, who was at Westminster following her weekly prime minister's questions, was whisked away to 10 Downing Street.

As details of the attacks spread around Westminster, Kinahan said that MPs and staff were “quietly stunned” by what had happened.

“We all know we’re in a fairly secure location and we probably assumed because it is the Houses of Parliament that it was always going to be a target,” he said. “But you just don’t expect it to happen here. But those who witnessed things were I think also stunned. They were shocked.”

Within minutes of the attacks, fleets of ambulances and police vehicles were speeding towards Westminster, sirens screaming, as police threw a wide cordon around the area. “Get out! Get under cover now!” police officers roared as they rushed passers-by away from the scene.

An air ambulance flew back and forth to Parliament Square, taking off with stretchers bearing the wounded to trauma centres at various London hospitals. Medical teams at St Thomas’s Hospital described some of the injuries suffered by the victims on Westminster Bridge as “catastrophic”.

Photos or videos

Meanwhile, police began their investigation, urging anyone with photos or videos of the incidents to send them to Scotland Yard. A wide area around Westminster remained closed off. Inside Parliament, police were searching every room and office in the building.

Armed police officers were deployed around London after the attack, and the Metropolitan Police said enhanced security precautions would remain in operation in the coming days.

At 7.30pm, almost four hours after the attack, the lockdown of parliament was lifted and those MPs who were in the chamber were allowed to leave. The Leader of the House, David Lidington, told them before they left that parliament would sit as usual on Thursday.