Westminster attacker’s inquest is not criminal trial, coroner tells jury

Jury at inquest on Khalid Masood’s death urged to establish facts, not liability

The jury at the inquest into the death of Khalid Masood, who carried out the Westminster Bridge attack in which five victims died, have been told “nobody is on trial” and there is “no question of attributing blame”.

The chief coroner, Mark Lucraft QC, opened the inquest into the death of Masood at the Old Bailey on Thursday. The inquest, which is expected to last about two weeks, will explore the events leading up to Masood’s death. It will hear evidence from anonymous close protection officers and from medical professionals who provided care to him. It will also look at Masood’s life to see what was known to authorities.

Masood, 52, from Kent, killed five people on 22 March last year in an attack lasting just 82 seconds. He drove his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing Kurt Cochran, 54, Leslie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and Andreea Cristea, 31, before crashing into a barrier at the Palace of Westminster. He then jumped out of the vehicle and ran towards the gates of parliament, where he stabbed PC Keith Palmer to death.

Masood, who was eventually shot dead by a plainclothes close protection officer, had also seriously injured 29 other pedestrians.

The jury of four women and seven men has been told that despite the setting, the inquest is not a criminal trial. They are there to establish facts, Lucraft said, adding: “Nobody is on trial here, an inquest does not decide matters of criminal liability. There is no question of attributing blame.”

The jury were told they had four main questions to consider: who is Masood, when did he die, where, and how? Lucraft told them to keep an open mind and not jump to conclusions.

The coroner said that while Masood’s family were interested persons in the inquest, their lawyers were unlikely to be present.

Det Supt John Crossley, who led the police investigation, was the first witness at the inquest. He outlined the details of attack to the jury, who were also shown CCTV still images of the attack on Westminster Bridge.

A separate inquest into the victims who died concluded on Wednesday, with Lucraft stating that Palmer’s life could have been saved had armed officers been nearby. He said: “Due to 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 a 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.”

Following Lucraft’s conclusion, Palmer’s loved ones criticised the Met police. Palmer’s widow, Michelle, 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 targets? He was left at a vulnerable location, with no protection, to die. The fact there were no firearms officers there for nearly an hour is hard to believe.”

All five victims who died in the attack were unlawfully killed, Lucraft concluded.

An outline of Masood’s background and history was heard at the inquest into the victims’ deaths. He first appeared on MI5’s radar in 2004 when he was connected with a suspect in the fertiliser bomb plot, but was dropped as a subject of interest in December 2010. Masood remained on MI5’s radar with “intermittent” contact with suspects until 2016, the inquest heard.

In the days before the attack, Masood bought knives, hired a high-powered Hyundai Tucson and carried out reconnaissance in Westminster. He also visited his mother and told her: “They are going to say I’m a terrorist but I’m not.”

• On 9 October 2018 the image of Khalid Masood accompanying this article was replaced with the police photograph of him.


Aamna Mohdin

The GuardianTramp

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