23 May 2013

Woolwich eyewitness: suspects ‘charged’ at police car

As two men remain in hospital under police guard following an fatal attack on a man in south east London, an eyewitness describes the dramatic scenes to Channel 4 News.

Eyewitness, Ike Onwukah, told Channel 4 News how the alleged attackers paced about at the scene for up to 15 minutes after the killing, apparently waiting for the police to arrive:

“They should have gone, taken off, but they were waiting for something to happen, maybe the cops to come. The minute the cop vehicle pulled over, they charged at the cops’ vehicle, the guy I think he shot at the cops’ vehicle, the other one was waving the machete or the knives, and headed for the cops vehicle, then they (the police) shoot out some shots – we had to take cover.”

The two suspects reportedly attacked a man – believed to be a serving British soldier – afterwards telling bystanders that the attack was in the name of “Allah”.

One of the attackers behind the killing, near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, was filmed wielding a bloodied meat cleaver, saying: “We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you.”

A woman who risked her life to confront one of the men who is thought to have attacked the victim, described how she tried to calm him moments after the barbaric attack.

Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, 48, was on a bus heading through Woolwich in south east London shortly after the attack when she spotted the stricken soldier lying bloodied in the road.

Political statements

Her bravery – and that of others who tried to reason with the killers – has been praised, particularly in the wake of amateur footage from the scene, which shows one of the two suspects making political statements about the slaughter while still brandishing weapons.

Ms Loyau-Kennett, of Helston in Cornwall, told ITV Daybreak she initially thought the victim had been injured in a car crash after spotting a badly damaged vehicle on a pavement at the scene.

Ms Loyau-Kennett described the attacker as “just a regular guy, just a bit upset, not on drugs, not drunk”. She said he told her his victim “was a British soldier who “killed Muslim people in Muslim countries”.

She told how she tried to distract the man until the police arrived by talking to him about what he was doing and feeling. She said he talked about bombs “killing blindly women, children – all Muslims”.

Asked if she was scared, she said “No, better me than a child – more and more mothers with children were stopping around… I was expecting the police to arrive as well”.

Cobra meeting

Prime Minister David Cameron, cut short a visit to France to return to the UK to chair a meeting of the government’s Cobra emergency committee on Thursday.

Speaking before the meeting he said the government was still seeking the full facts, but added: “there are strong indications that it is a terrorist incident.”

The two men shot by police after the terrorist murder of a soldier were both known to security services, it was confirmed on Thursday.

While the killers were under armed guard in different London hospitals, it is understood police searched the former home of a man called Michael Adebolajo in Lincolnshire.

Lone wolf

Former chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee Baroness Neville-Jones said the security services would be exploring whether the attack was carried out by a “lone wolf” or by someone with further connections, either at home or abroad.

“Clearly, as in this case the perpetrators are still alive they are going to be questioned. There is going to be a great deal of information available,” she said on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

“There is a much bigger problem, potentially.

“Isolated attacks of the kind we have just seen, of this kind of attack, I’m inclined to think is possibly more in the nature of a lone wolf, is particularly hard to deal with because there are very few outward signs beforehand of the nature the intelligence services can pick up.”

Baroness Neville-Jones welcomed the moves by Muslim community leaders to condemn the attacks but warned more action needed to be taken to ensure radical rhetoric was properly tackled and “talking to people about what the proper nature of democracy is”.

On Thursday afternoon, police defended their response to the incident, following claims that it had taken up to 20 minutes for armed officers to arrive at the scene.

Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne, said: “We first received a 999 call from the public at 14:20hrs stating a man was being attacked, further 999 calls stated that the attackers were in possession of a gun. We had officers at the scene within 9 minutes of receiving that first 999 call.

“Once that information about a gun or guns being present was known firearms officers were assigned at 14:24hrs. Firearms officers were there and dealing with the incident 10 minutes after they were assigned, 14 minutes after the first call to the Met.

The incident occurred some 200 yards from the Royal Artillery Barracks, adjacent to Woolwich Common, the historical home of the Royal Artillery.

The barracks, also known as the Woolwich station, now houses a number of the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery and independent companies of the Grenadier and Coldstream Guards.

A car believed to have been used in the attack was taken away during the night.

The blue vehicle, which appeared to have collided with a road sign in John Wilson Street, was covered with a red tarpaulin and taken away by a tow truck.

Home Secretary Theresa May said security has been increased at Army barracks across London, and added: “This attack was an attack on everyone in the United Kingdom, and it will be condemned by people from every community.”