Westminster attacker lawfully killed by minister's bodyguard, jury finds

Khalid Masood was shot dead by close protection officer after killing five people last year

A minister’s bodyguard lawfully killed Khalid Masood as the Westminster Bridge attacker charged towards him after his murderous rampage, a jury has concluded.

Masood, 52, from Kent, killed five people on 22 March last year in an attack lasting 82 seconds, before being shot dead by a close protection officer identified only as SA74.

He drove his car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge, killing Kurt Cochran, 54, Leslie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and Andreea Cristea, 31, and seriously injuring 29 others.

He then crashed his hired vehicle into a barrier at the Palace of Westminster, jumped out and ran towards the gates of parliament, where he stabbed Keith Palmer, a police officer, to death.

Westminster Bridge attack graphic
Guardian graphic

The jury at the Old Bailey in London reached a conclusion of lawful killing on Friday afternoon after earlier being directed by the chief coroner of England and Wales, Mark Lucraft QC, that it was the only safe interpretation of the facts.

Lucraft said the armed officer who shot Masood three times with a Glock pistol “honestly believed it was necessary” in defence of himself and others.

After two hours and 22 minutes, the jury said Masood was intent on inflicting “serious harm” when he stormed through the gates and had been issued with verbal warnings, but “continued to move toward the close protection officers at speed” before he was shot.

Speaking outside the court, Neil Basu, Britain’s most senior counter-terrorism officer, said: “The two armed close protection officers who confronted this individual acted with great courage. They undoubtedly prevented others from being injured and further loss of life. I pay tribute to their tremendous professionalism and their bravery.”

CCTV footage aired at the inquest showed SA74 heading towards Masood before moving backwards in an attempt to give the attacker a chance to stop before he opened fire. The officer, who wept while giving testimony, said he shouted at Masood to drop the knife but it had no effect. “He was going to kill me,” he said.

His colleague, known only as SB73, told the inquest he shouted warnings at the attacker, but Masood did not change direction or speed and carried on towards them. He said he could not think of a greater justification for having to fire.

Victims of Westminster attack
The victims of the attack, from left: Keith Palmer, Aysha Frade, Leslie Rhodes, Andreea Cristea and Kurt Cochran. Photograph: Metropolitan police/PA

Both protection officers quickly carried out first aid on Masood after he was shot. The inquest heard three gunshot wounds were found during an autopsy. The first bullet, which struck his upper torso, was believed to be the cause of death.

In his summing-up to the jury, Lucraft defended the actions of the then acting Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Craig Mackey, who stayed in his car as the attack occurred while he was being driven out of the Palace of Westminster.

The coroner said Mackey, now the deputy commissioner of Scotland Yard, had no means of protecting himself. “It is clear from the evidence of Sir Craig there was nothing he could have done to stop Masood,” he said. Basu described criticism of Mackey as “abhorrent”.

The inquest started after the conclusion of inquests into the deaths of his victims, which were heard by Lucraft, sitting without a jury. Lucraft concluded that armed officers guarding New Palace Yard might have been able to prevent Palmer’s death, had they complied with a requirement they were unaware of to remain in close proximity to the gate.

Contributor

Haroon Siddique

The GuardianTramp

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