Westminster attacker mowed down people ‘like human bowling pins’

The scene after Khalid Masood ploughed into pedestrians (James West/PA) Credit: Press Association Images

The Westminster terrorist would have felt and heard every bang and thud as he mowed down pedestrians like “human bowling pins”, an inquest has heard.

In just 82 seconds, Khalid Masood deliberately targeted four people on Westminster Bridge before stabbing Pc Keith Palmer to death at the gates of Parliament.

Grieving families walked out as disturbing CCTV was played on the first day of an inquest into the victims’ deaths at the Old Bailey.

It showed Masood driving erratically towards the Houses of Parliament, mounting the pavement and striking American tourist Kurt Cochran, 54, retired window cleaner Leslie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and Romanian tourist Andreea Cristea, 31.

Bus cam video showed Ms Frade being thrown into the air while Ms Cristea was seen plunging over a balustrade.

Masood’s rented Hyundai Tucson had been going an average of 31mph before crashing into railings at the perimeter of the Palace of Westminster.

There were no armed officers nearby when Masood, armed with two large knives, stabbed unarmed Pc Palmer.

He was eventually shot dead by a plainclothes officer who had rushed to the scene.

Emergency services at the scene of the attack outside the Palace of Westminster Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

After the attack on March 22 last year, eight officers working six days a week took four months to watch all the CCTV footage recovered, a total of 6,000 hours, just 10 hours of which was “usable”.

Twelve people were arrested during the investigation, all of whom were released without charge.

Detective Superintendent John Crossley said: “From every inquiry we have done, we have not identified any other person involved in this and it’s my belief Masood acted alone.”

Gareth Patterson QC, who represents three grieving families, said the images showed Masood was “deliberately targeting pedestrians”.

He said it appeared people were being hit like “human bowling pins” and “thrown in the air like rag dolls”.

He said witnesses described “the noise and the repeated thuds and bangs of the impact”.

Questioning Mr Crossley, he said: “The driver Masood, behind the wheel, would have seen and heard every impact as he drove over the bridge.

“And so, is it right, your assessment, when you stand back and look at the gravity of what happened, there is no getting away from the barbarity of what happened and the inhumanity of what took place?

“This was terrorism of an indiscriminate type and whatever he thought about the values of democracy, it was those values of democracy that led police officers to try to save his life at the end of this.”

Mr Crossley agreed.

Kurt Cochran with his wife Melissa, who was also injured in the attack Credit: Family handout/PA

Earlier, families of the victims described their devastation and anger.

Music lover Mr Cochran died saving the life of his wife Melissa by pushing her out of the way of the car.

She was too upset to pay tribute to him in person, so her sister Angela Stoll read a statement on her behalf on what would have been the day after Mr Cochran’s 56th birthday.

“I was so lucky to have had 25 wonderful years with the man of my dreams. He made me laugh every single day. I cherish every single memory we made.

“I am forever grateful for the time we had together, allowing me to be the mother to his children, and especially his heroic actions on that day, saving my life.

“No words will bring Kurt back or anyone else who has died senselessly in such cowardly attacks on humanity.”

Leslie Rhodes’ family said they were ‘devastated’ by his death Credit: PA

The niece of Mr Rhodes told the inquest the 75-year-old was “placid, quiet and kind”.

Amanda Rhodes told how the family was “devastated” and “incredibly angry” on hearing of his death.

Aysha Frade’s family said she was ‘ripped away from our lives in the cruellest and most cowardly of ways’ Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Mrs Frade’s widower John said: “The truth is that she still doesn’t feel like she’s gone, her love surrounds us, her aura lights up the paths of life’s journey.”

The mother of two was “cruelly and brutally ripped away from us”, he said.

Her sister Michelle said: “Aysha and all the other victims of this tragedy are people and not just statistics or a name that will be forgotten once this inquest is over.”

Romanian tourist Andreea Cristea was knocked into the Thames Credit: Handout/PA

A video recording was played to the court paying tribute to Ms Cristea, on what would have been her 33rd birthday.

She died from her injuries after she was thrown into the Thames as she walked across Westminster Bridge with her boyfriend, Andrei Burnaz.

The interior designer had written a note on her final New Year’s Eve, in which she told of her hopes for the coming year, which she said “will be the best of my life”.

“I will have a wonderful man by my side, who will love and cherish me and with this man I will start a wonderful family,” the note said.

Pc Keith Palmer was killed while guarding Parliament Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Family and colleagues of Pc Palmer paid tribute to the “brave” officer who gave his life to protect others.

His sister Angela said: “Keith died protecting strangers whilst doing his job and he will be remembered by many for his courage and bravery.”

Chief Inspector Neil Sawyer said the constable had made the “ultimate sacrifice”.

He said: “His brave actions that day did not surprise me. Keith never backed away from a job protecting people.”

The inquest before Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC was adjourned until Tuesday.