Westminster attack victim feared terrorist incident, inquest hears

Family say Aysha Frade had expressed apprehensive about working in area

Aysha Frade was worried about terrorist attacks when her job was transferred to Westminster. The 44-year-old died instantly when she was struck by a car and thrown under the wheels of a bus, an inquest has heard.

Frade was declared dead at the scene soon after Khalid Masood hit her with his vehicle. She was on her phone and “seemed completely unaware” at the time she was hit. She was flung into the air and landed in the bus lane, about 17.5 metres (57ft) from where she was first struck.

The inquest heard that her head and shoulders were under the nearside of a slowly moving doubledecker bus, its rear wheel passed over her before it came to a stop.

Frade was one of five people to be killed by Masood, who carried out a car and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster on 22 March last year. The attack, which lasted 82 seconds, injured dozens of others.

Frade had previously told family members she was apprehensive about working in Westminster, fearing a terrorist attack, but she was told that “if anything, she would be in the safest part of London”, her sister Michelle Caldelas said.

The inquest was presented with graphic footage and heard two 999 calls made shortly after Frade was struck. In one, the caller tells emergency services that someone is under a bus, adding: “I think she’s dead.”

Rob Lyon, a pedestrian on the bridge, saw Masood’s vehicle mount the kerb and strike Frade, and saw her go under the bus. He told the inquest he heard “a very unnatural car sound” and then a “crunch”. Once he reached Frade, he found her lying face down. “It happened incredibly quickly,” Lyon said.

Richard Webb-Stevens, a paramedic who attended the scene within five minutes of the attack, soon pronounced her dead.

CCTV footage showed Webb-Stevens arrived at the scene at 2.45pm. He told the inquest he knew Frade was dead as her injuries were “unequivocal, incompatible with life”. A nurse placed a blanket on Frade several minutes later.

Webb-Stevens was asked why he had not placed a blanket to cover Frade once he was aware she had died. He told the inquest “this was a terrorist attack on our country” and that while under normal circumstances he would have covered the person, he had no time as he was dealing with a dozen or so other injured people.

Kirsty Bambrough, a police officer, arrived at the scene about 10 minutes after the attack. Bambrough broke down in tears when she confirmed that Frade had horrific injuries to her face and head. The officer had gone through Frade’s bag and found a letter from her children’s school and quickly contacted the school to tell them what had happened. Frade had been on her way to pick up her two children.

Bambrough had remained by Frade’s side for “quite some time”, the inquest heard.

Colleen Anderson, a doctor at St Thomas’ hospital, ran to the bridge moments after the attack to assist emergency personnel. When she reached Frade she looked to check for any signs of life, feeling for chest movement and a pulse, but quickly concluded “there wasn’t really much more I could do”.

A bus passenger, Rob English, picked up Frade’s phone from the road and answered a call from her husband, John. English told him there had been a terrible accident and advised him to get to the bridge.

Frade’s body was covered up within eight minutes of her being killed, but graphic images surfaced online, to the distress of her family. Despite the family’s efforts to remove the images, some still remained, the inquest heard.

Members of Frade’s family became visibly upset as footage of her death was shown.

Later, the inquest was shown footage of Andreea Cristea, 31, who was walking along the bridge with her boyfriend. The couple were on holiday from Romania. The footage showed Cristea being hit by Masood’s car, the impact propelling her over the parapet into the Thames. The inquest heard a recording of a coastguard officer who said a woman had been recovered from the water, adding she was in need of medical attention. Cristea’s family watched the inquest proceedings from Romania via video link.

The inquest also heard that another victim, Leslie Rhodes, 75, was taken to an ambulance to Kings College hospital. Dr Simon Calvert, the consultant involved in his care, said Rhodes was unconscious when he arrived and had an obvious wound to his head. A CT scan confirmed Rhodes had a severe traumatic brain injury, one that was “likely to be unsurvivable”. Rhodes, a retired window cleaner, died from his injuries the next evening.

The other two victims were Kurt Cochran, 54, and PC Keith Palmer, 48.

The inquest is expected to last until 17 October.


Aamna Mohdin

The GuardianTramp

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