The Metropolitan police have condemned criticism of the force’s deputy commissioner for remaining in his car while Khalid Masood stabbed an unarmed police officer to death during the Westminster Bridge attack.
Sir Craig Mackey, then the acting Met commissioner, was being driven out of the Palace of Westminster during the incident on 22 March last year.
He faced calls to resign and for him be stripped of his knighthood from former officers and on police forums, after he told the inquest into Masood’s death that he remained in his vehicle because he had “no protective equipment and no radio”.
The Express front page on Thursday read “Police hero who put his boss to shame”, comparing Mackey’s actions unfavourably with those of the armed protection officer who shot Masood dead, while an article on the Sun website was headlined “Mark of cowardice”.
Speaking after the conclusion of the inquest, the Met commissioner, Cressida Dick, said the criticism was “confused, unpleasant, personalised and ignorant”.
“The attack in New Palace Yard occurred and was stopped in seconds. Sir Craig had absolutely no opportunity to stop the killer or save PC [Keith] Palmer. Anyone who suggests otherwise is simply wrong,” she said.
“The actions he was able to and did take were to protect the unarmed police staff colleagues who were in the car with him. He went on to lead the Met’s response to the attack with distinction.”
Neil Basu, a Met assistant commissioner and Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, echoed her comments, describing the criticism of Mackey as “abhorrent”. He also warned against giving people such as Masood “the comfort that they have somehow divided us as a result of their actions”.
In his summing-up to the jury, the chief coroner of England and Wales, Mark Lucraft QC, described Mackey’s actions as “sensible and proper and intended to protect others in the car”.
Lucraft said Mackey did not flee the scene. “You may well think that it was important for the most senior police officer in the country to be at New Scotland Yard, where he could take command and control of what, at that time, could potentially have been part of a much larger attack,” he said.