Westminster Terror Attack: Driver ‘Not Known to MI5’ Arrested After Car Ploughs into Parliament Barrier
Danny Boyle, The Telegraph, August 14, 2018
A terror suspect arrested after a car crashed into a barrier at the Houses of Parliament at high speed is not believed to be known to the security services, police have said.
At least three people were injured when the silver Ford Fiesta hit a group of cyclists and pedestrians waiting for traffic lights to change. Rooftop camera footage shows the car mounting a pavement on the wrong side of the road before, witnesses said, it travelled at up to 50mph for around 40 metres (130ft) and hit a bollard.
Westminster was in lockdown as armed police swarmed the scene on Tuesday morning. One witness said: “It looked intentional — the car drove at speed and towards the barriers.”
Scotland Yard said a man in his late 20s was arrested after the incident at around 7.30am. The suspect was taken to a south London police station, where he remains on suspicion of terrorism offences. He is not co-operating with officers.
The Met’s counter-terrorism command is leading the investigation. Officers are seeking to formally identify the suspect, but “don’t believe this person is known to either MI5 or counter terrorism police”.
Images showed a man being led away in handcuffs after armed police surrounded the eight-year-old car.
A second image appears to show pedestrians hit by the vehicle at least 40 metres (130ft) away from where the car hit the barrier.
No one else was in the car and police said no weapons had been recovered from the scene.
Speaking outside New Scotland Yard, Neil Basu, the Met’s Assistant Commissioner for counter-terrorism, said police and the intelligence services were working to establish if the suspect was part of a wider terror cell and if he had received assistance from others in planning the attack.
Mr Basu said: “It appears to have been a deliberate act, but what the motive was we can’t answer at the moment. We haven’t formally identified the suspect, but we don’t believe he’s known to MI5.”
He added the attacker was not been pursued by police before he struck the entrance to the Palace of Westminster and that the blue lights seen behind him in footage of the incident were those of an ambulance coincidentally answering a separate emergency call.
Witness Barry Williams said the car had accelerated towards the barrier after hitting the cyclists.
“I turned round to see a silver car heading towards the cyclists on the wrong side of the road, they were parked waiting for the lights to change,” he told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire programme. “He hit the cyclists then swerved over towards where the safety barrier is…. and accelerated and hit it at quite a high speed.
“I wasn’t sure whether he meant to hit the cyclists, they might have just been in the way, but once he did, he accelerated towards the barrier.
He added: “The police were very fast, they vaulted over the safety barrier and headed towards the car.
“What also happened was the police started to head away to block off people heading towards us. The cyclists…there was a few on the ground, some were holding their arms, there was bikes everywhere. It was frightening.”
Mr Williams added: “There was about 10 cyclists waiting for the lights to change… he hit about four or five — one of the cyclists got up and was about to chase the car.”
Aerial footage of the crash shows the silver Ford Fiesta coming along the road next to Parliament Square before moving to turn right towards Westminster Abbey.
As an ambulance passes the car on its right-hand side, the vehicle swerves left — crossing oncoming traffic and a pavement before entering a small road and crashing into a security barrier.
A police officer can be seen jumping another barrier that runs along the side of the road to get away.
Parliament Square was evacuated as a large number of police cars descended on the heart of Westminster, which has seen heightened security since the Westminster Bridge attack in March 2017.
Streets around Parliament Square, Millbank and Victoria Tower Gardens were also cordoned off as dozens of armed police swooped on the scene.
A series of ambulances had been sent to the scene and the London Ambulance Service said two people were treated for injuries that are not thought to be serious and taken to hospital. A third person was assessed for minor injuries at the scene.
Metropolitan Police statement as man arrested
The man arrested over the Westminster car crash is in his 20s and is being held on suspicion of terrorist offences, Scotland Yard said.
It said in a statement: “At 07:37hrs on Tuesday 14 August, a silver Ford Fiesta collided with a number of cyclists and pedestrians, before crashing into barriers outside the Houses of Parliament.
“The driver of the car, a man in his late 20s, was arrested at the scene by armed officers. He has been taken to a south London police station where he remains in police custody.
“He was arrested on suspicion of terrorist offences.
“There was nobody else in the vehicle, which remains at the scene and is being searched. No weapons have been recovered at this stage.”
The force spokesman added: “At this stage, we are treating this as a terrorist incident and the Met’s Counter Terrorism Command is now leading the investigation.”
Ambulance service: Three injured people treated
Two people were treated at the scene in Westminster for injuries that are not thought to be serious, London Ambulance Service said.
A third person was assessed for minor injuries but not taken to hospital.
Assistant Director of Operations Peter Rhodes said: “We were called at 7.40am today (14 August) to reports of an incident on St Margaret Street, SW1.
“We sent a number of resources to the scene including three ambulance crews, responders in cars and an incident response officer.
“We have treated two people at the scene for injuries that are not believed to be serious and have taken them to hospital.”
Neil Basu, Assistant Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and counter-terrorism head, is giving an update outside New Scotland Yard. He has said:
- One woman is being treated for serious but not life-threatening injuries. Another person has been discharged
- The arrested man is in his late 20s
- “Given that this appears to be a deliberate act, the method and the iconic site… this is being treated as a terrorist attack”
- No other suspects have been identified and there is “no intelligence at this time of further danger” to Londoners or the rest of the UK connected to this incident
- The vehicle is vehicle is being searched. No weapons have been found
- Police are seeking to identify the suspect and “his motivation if possible”
- Mr Basu added that the suspect was not co-operating with police and had not yet been formally identified
- But on the basis of the information known so far, “we don’t believe this person is known to either MI5 or counter terrorism police,” he added.