OUR area’s defiant MPs were back in Parliament yesterday determined to continue their democratic duties – just hours after the terror attack that saw a policeman and two innocent civilians murdered in Westminster.
Sir Henry Bellingham MP for North West Norfolk and Justice Minister Elizabeth Truss were in the Commons as Prime Minister Theresa May outlined how the whole House condemned the atrocity and that democracy in the country would not be dimmed.
He said: “It is obviously important that life in London and in Parliament goes on and that evil and terrorism is never allowed to prevail in our democratic and free society.”
Sir Henry was on his way from offices in Portcullis House to the Chamber for a vote when the ‘lone wolf’ attacker – who had already mown down his victims on Westminster Bridge in a rented car, killing two – was shot by an armed undercover protection officer after he managed to get inside the grounds of Parliament before stabbing a policeman.
The killer smashed his car into railings close to Parliament’s Carriage Gates which were open at the time because of a ‘division’ so MPs can rush into vote.
Sir Henry told YLP: “It was a tragic coincidence that the Carriage Gates were half open because of ‘division’. Armed officers had only just moved away. At any other time they are shut and no one can get in. Security kicked in straight away.
“I didn’t hear the bangs – two plain-clothed police officers shot the attacker – because I was walking from Portcullis House to ‘division’.
“The first thing I saw was Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond’s grim face before entering the Chamber, the two lobbies behind me were on lock down.”
MP for South West Norfolk and Lord Chancellor, Ms Truss, was in the central lobby, with other MPs en route to the Chamber when it was ‘locked down’.
She said: “My thoughts are very much with the family and friends of all those affected by the incident. Praise must be given to the emergency services for their swift response and for the incredible bravery shown by police officers.”
Sir Henry said: “At the time we did not know if it was a ‘lone wolf’ attack or a distraction with another heavier follow-up attack on the way.”
He added that Wednesday’s events in Westminster were “obviously a dreadful tragedy and an appalling waste of life”.
He added: “My heartfelt sympathy goes out to the families of the victims and we are also thinking of those people who are hopefully recovering from very serious injuries. We do need to keep this in perspective because it does appear to be a ‘lone wolf’ attack and furthermore, the bravery and professionalism of our parliamentary security prevented the terrorist from getting any further into the Palace precincts. It was also appallingly bad luck and a chance factor that at that very moment the Carriage Gates were open because a ‘division’ was taking place in the Chamber. If it had not been for that unfortunate coincidence the intruder would never have been able to get through the gates.”
Council staff observed a minute’s silence yesterday (Thursday) at 9.33am, in honour of the murdered policeman Keith Palmer, whose shoulder number was 933.
Flags on West Norfolk Borough Council buildings – the Town Hall in Lynn and council offices in King’s Court, Chapel Street – were all lowered to half mast as a mark of respect. King’s Lynn Town Hall was lit up in red, white and blue last night to honour the victims and also the courage of those involved.
Cllr Brian Long, leader of the borough council, said: “This was a truly tragic incident, and our thoughts are with everyone affected.”
Yesterday, so-called Islamic State claimed responsibility for the cowardly attack by British-born Jihadist named as Khalid Masood, 52, known to MI5 and investigated ‘historically’ over links to ‘violent extremism’. He left two pedestrians dead and 29 more injured. Spanish teacher Aysha Frade, 43, was on her way to collect her two daughters, aged eight and 11, when she was hit by her killer’s car and then thrown under the wheels of a bus while her husband John was at work.
A US couple celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary on a dream tour of Europe were also victims.
Kurt Cochran, 54, from Utah died after being thrown over Westminster Bridge onto a walkway beneath it when the ISIS terrorist mowed him down in his Hyundai 4×4.
His 46-year-old wife Melissa was also struck. She lay frozen on the bridge with blood pouring from her head as strangers consoled her while they waited for an ambulance.
Mrs Cochran remains in hospital in the UK where she is being treated for a broken leg and rib.
Eight people have been arrested in anti-terror raids on properties in Birmingham and London.