A counter-terrorism chief has blasted “abhorrent remarks” levelled at a senior officer who stayed in his car as an unarmed police constable was stabbed to death in the Westminster attack.
Assistant Commissioner Neil Basu, who headed the inquiry into the murderous rampage, reacted as an inquest jury yesterday found Khalid Masood was lawfully killed when he was shot dead by a minister’s bodyguard.
Speaking outside the Old Bailey, Mr Basu paid tribute to the bravery of his officers and said his thoughts remained with the victims of Masood’s “barbaric actions”.
On controversy over then-acting Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey’s decision not to confront Masood, he said: “Can I turn to some of the abhorrent remarks circulating about the deputy commissioner Sir Craig Mackey?
“Both I and the investigators both know there is nothing that Craig could have done to have stopped Masood or to have saved PC Palmer or any others from being injured.”
The inquest had heard how Masood – a 52-year-old Muslim convert – mowed down pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in a hired SUV, killing four and seriously injuring 29.
He crashed into railings before storming through gates near the Houses of Parliament armed with two knives.
Masood stabbed unarmed PC Keith Palmer to death before being shot dead by a bodyguard who rushed to the scene. The attack on 22 March last year took just 82 seconds.
A jury of seven men and four women took two hours and 22 minutes yesterday to find Masood was lawfully killed, adding in a short narrative of the events leading to his death.
They found Masood intended to “inflict serious harm and/or take a life” as he continued without stopping or changing direction. He had been issued with verbal warnings, but “continued to move toward the close protection officers at speed” before he was shot, the jury said.
Earlier Coroner Mark Lucraft QC had directed the jury to return a lawful killing verdict as the bodyguard who shot Masood believed it was necessary to open fire in defence of himself and others.
The inquest heard dramatic accounts of how unarmed police officers and members of the public fled after Masood killed PC Palmer and continued to advance, clutching bloodied foot-long knives, intent on targeting more officers.
His rampage was stopped by a close protection officer on site to act as bodyguard to a government minister.
Sir Craig – one of the country’s most senior police officers – faced calls on social media to resign after he told the inquest he had stayed in his official car as Masood murdered PC Palmer.
Giving his account of events for the first time, he said he locked the doors and remained in the vehicle with two civilian colleagues because they had no personal protective equipment or a radio.
After Masood was shot dead, Sir Craig, who is due to retire in December, tried to get out of the car, but was advised by an officer on guard at the site to leave.