Westminster terror attack: coroner hails 'overwhelming acts' of London's doctors and nurses

A coroner today hailed the brave actions of London's doctors and nurses for saving lives in the aftermath of the Westminster terror attack.

Coroner Mark Lucraft QC has begun delivering his verdict in the inquest of the five people who died in the attack by praising the efforts of those who rushed to help the injured and dying.

"I'm sure many more people didn't die from their injuries because of the capabilities and quite overwhelming acts of those who responded", he said.

He said doctors and nurses from nearby St Thomas' Hospital helped those injured by "treating them where they could", adding: "I'm sure what they did is a great comfort to the families who couldn't be with their loved ones at that time."

Mr Lucraft also criticised bystanders who had filmed the aftermath of the attack, including injured and dying victims, and posted the footage online.

"Some of the material is very distressing to the families, and I would encourage that it is removed", he said.

The man behind the attack, Khalid Masood, 52, killed four pedestrians - Aysha Frade, 43, Kurt Cochran, 54, Leslie Rhodes, 75, and Andreea Cristea, 31 – by hitting them with a hired 4x4 Hyundai on Westminster Bridge on March 22 last year.

Tribute: US tourist Melissa Cochran, whose husband Kurt was killed in the Westminster attack, arrives for a memorial service at Westminster Abbey (AP)

Mother of two Mrs Frade was thrown under the wheels of a passing bus, Mr Leslie and American tourist Mr Cochran suffered fatal injuries when hit by Masood’s car, and Ms Cristea, a Romanian tourist, was flung into the River Thames.

Masood, an extremist with ties to Anjem Choudary’s banned Al Muhijaroun (ALM) group, then crashed his car into the perimeter fence around Parliament, clambering out armed with two knives.

As pedestrians screamed in horror and fled, Masood ran through the Carriage Gates entrance to Parliament and stabbed PC Keith Palmer to death.

Masood stabbed the unarmed officer repeatedly and was shot dead dead as he ventured further into the Westminster estate.

A police officer places flowers and a photo of Pc Keith Palmer on Whitehall after the Westminster attack (Dominic Lipinski /PA)

The coroner said it was clear Masood was carrying out a "deliberate act", targeting people at random as they enjoyed the iconic sights of London.

The family of PC Palmer has called on the coroner to find that Met Police systems failed to adequately protect Parliament and the officers on duty.

Dominic Adamson QC, for PC Palmer’s widow, told the Old Bailey inquest: "The bulk of the evidence demonstrates strongly and clearly that for the majority of the time, there was not effective support at the perimeter of the Palace of Westminster.

"The evidence has shown that in the 108 minutes that preceded the attack, authorised firearms officers were within the vicinity of the gates for a maximum of 14 minutes – that is a total of 13 per cent of that time."

The court heard that armed officers were on mobile patrols around a section of the grounds which include Carriage Gates, but were not permanently stationed at the entrance.

However Scotland Yard chiefs say instructions were changed in January 2015 to ensure armed guards were close to the gates, but that junior officers failed to follow them.

Susannah Stevens, representing PC Palmer’s sisters and parents, suggested there was a “lack of acceptance and responsibility on behalf of the senior leadership team of the Metropolitan Police Service”.

But Hugo Keith QC, who is representing the Met Police, argued this morning that any police failings identified by the coroner could not be blamed for PC Palmer's death.

He said Masood struck with "unanticipated speed", while officers stationed at and near to Carriage Gates were distracted by the noise of the extremist's car crashing into the perimeter fence.

"The stark reality is Masood entered through Carriage Gates so quickly that no single officer had time to react, let alone prevent the fatal attack", he said.

PC Nick Carlisle was a colleague of PC Palmer’s and rushed to his aid during the attack by Masood, attempting to rugby tackle the extremist to stop him.

Asked about Masood’s motives yesterday, he said: “He looked me directly in the eye. He was coming through a crowd of people. He was not interested in members of the public. He was coming to kill police officers.”

The inquest has heard how Masood was on the radar of the security services as long ago as 2004, when his telephone number was on a contact list of a jihadi involved in the so-called fertiliser bomb plot in Crawley.

He went to live in Luton and Birmingham, close to known Muslim extremists, and he was suspected in 2010 of helping Al Qaeda operatives travel to Pakistan for terror training.

However, Masood was put on a “closed” list of terror suspects in 2012 and was not under active surveillance at the time of the attack.

“We do think there is room for improvement in terms of decision making”, said Gareth Patterson QC, for the families of the victims on the bridge.

“The Frade family was quite frankly bewildered by the failure to revisit Masood, particularly in the latter years when he was again and again meeting with ALM individuals”.

The coroner will today rule on the deaths of all five victims, deciding how they died and any steps that could have been taken to save them.

He is expected to deliver a report with any recommendations at a later date.

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