Pedestrians hit like 'human bowling pins' in ’82 seconds of drama' during Westminster attack

Lives were torn apart "by 82 seconds of high and terrible drama" in the Westminster terror attack which saw a police officer make the "ultimate sacrifice", an inquest has heard.

Four members of the public were killed by Khalid Masood, on March 22 last year when he mounted the pavement and drove into pedestrians like "human bowling pins," before exiting his vehicle and stabbing Pc Keith Palmer who was on guard at the Palace of Westminster.

The inquest heard Masood, 52, would have felt "repeated thuds and bangs" as he mowed down American tourist Kurt Cochran, 54, retired window cleaner Leslie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and Romanian tourist Andreea Cristea, 31.

Family and colleagues of Pc Palmer, 48, paid tribute to the officer who "died protecting strangers whilst doing his job".

The inquest was shown striking CCTV footage of unarmed police running away during the attack and questions were raised as to why no armed officers were near the scene at the Carriage Gates when Pc Palmer was killed.

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

On Monday, Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC began the inquests into the victims’ deaths in Court One of the Old Bailey.

He told the court: “The lives of many were torn apart by 82 seconds of high and terrible drama.”

The coroner went on to warn that some of the video footage shown in evidence will be “graphic and shocking”.

Grieving families walked out as disturbing CCTV was played on the first day of the inquest.

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".

Masood would have felt 'repeated thuds and bangs' as he mowed down pedestrians. Credit: PA

Pen portraits of each of the victims were then read to the court, where relatives sat to listen to proceedings.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick was also present as the inquests began.

The first of the pen portraits was for music lover Mr Cochran, who died saving his wife Melissa’s life. She was too upset to pay tribute to her late husband 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.

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

“He was my best friend, my husband and my everything,” she said.

The court was shown CCTV and dashcam footage of Mr Cochran's last moments as he walked along Westminster Bridge with his wife Melissa who can be seen pointing at various landmarks.

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

His friend Pc Shaun Cartwright described the happy, honest and genuine family man who worked to provide for his wife and daughter.

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.”

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

Following tributes Detective Superintendent John Crossley went through how each of the victims was fatally injured.

Masood mounted the pavement at 14:40:08 and within 30 seconds hit the four civilian victims and crashed into railings at the perimeter gates of the Palace of Westminster.

Mr Cochran acted with “instinctive courage” when he pushed his wife out of the path of the hired Hyundai Tuscon driven by Masood, the court heard. He was thrown into the air and was fatally injured, dying at the scene.

Westminster terror attack timings. Credit: PA Graphics

Mr Rhodes was dragged 33 metres under the car, and was taken to Kings College Hospital but never regained consciousness. He died the next day from head injuries.

Mrs Frade was hit by the car from behind and thrown into a bus lane, where she was run over by a bus and died from a “catastrophic” head injury.

Images were shown of what happened, with the court warned that they were distressing.

Miss Cristea was thrown off Westminster Bridge, falling 12.5 metres into the Thames. She was in the water for nearly nine minutes before she was recovered.

Romanian tourist Andreea Cristea died after being “knocked” into the River Thames Credit: Handout/PA

The inquest heard that the Romanian tourist, who had been walking over the bridge with her boyfriend Andrei Burnaz towards the London Eye, was given “intensive and complex” treatment at the Royal London and St Bartholomew’s hospitals but never regained consciousness and died on April 6 when her life support was switched off.

Her cause of death was multiple organ failure, head injuries and immersion.

After mowing down the pedestrians, Masood got out of his car and became involved in a violent struggle with Pc Palmer, who stumbled and fell backwards.

Disturbing video footage of the officer being stabbed as he lay prone against a low wall after stumbling backward was shown to the inquest.

No armed officers were present at the Carriage Gates and it was a close protection officer who eventually shot Masood three times when he failed to drop the two knives he was carrying.

A new set of security gates have been installed at the Carriage Gates entrance to the Houses of Parliament in London, following the Westminster terror attack. Credit: PA

Hugo Keith QC, representing the Metropolitan Police, asked Detective Superintendent John Crossley: "There was no static position for armed officers at that time [at the Carriage Gates], was there?"

Mr Crossley replied: "That's correct."

Instead, firearms officers were on mobile patrol, the Old Bailey heard.

Susannah Stevens, representing the family of Keith Palmer, questioned Mr Crossley about which colleagues he had spoken to "when you realised there was an issue about the fact that authorised firearms officers were not in close proximity at the Carriage Gates".

He said he would have discussed it with the Gold Commander for the investigation.

The absence of armed officers at the scene will be examined in detail as part of the inquests.

An image was shown to the court taken from an upper window of Portcullis House, in which the prone officer’s legs could be seen in the air, as Masood approached him.

Khalid Masood was shot by police following his deadly rampage. Credit: PA

Pc Palmer was stabbed, but managed to escape when Masood was distracted by two other officers.

He ran a short distance but collapsed, and despite receiving first aid from the public, the police and treatment from paramedic and air ambulance crews, died at the scene.

Masood was then challenged by an armed close protection officer, who shot him three times when he failed to drop the two knives in his hands.