Security barriers were not initially installed along Westminster Bridge because it was not deemed a likely location for a terror attack, one of the country’s most senior police officers has told the March 2017 attack inquest.
Metropolitan police chief superintendent Nick Aldworth, who is tasked with making the country “resilient to terror attacks”, said the bridge linking Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament to the west of the Thames, and the London Eye and Waterloo to the east, was “not seen as a location” where those protective measures were needed.
Terrorist Khalid Masood mowed down pedestrians on the landmark before stabbing Pc Keith Palmer to death as he stood guard at the Palace of Westminster on March 22 last year.
On Tuesday, Dominic Adamson, representing two of the five victims’ family members, asked Mr Aldworth why the decision had not been made to introduce barriers on the bridge, particularly in the wake of the terror attacks in the French resort of Nice on Bastille Day 2016, and at the Berlin Christmas markets in December 2016 – both of which involved vehicles ploughing into crowds to maximise casualties.
Cross-examining the policeman during the inquests at the Old Bailey in central London, Mr Adamson said: “Despite the events in Nice and Berlin, no decision was taken to erect barriers on Westminster Bridge?”
Mr Aldworth replied: “You’re correct. It was not seen as a location where we needed to have barriers.”
Asked if such a barrier could have been put on the bridge swiftly had it been decided the location was at risk of a vehicle-based terror attack, Mr Aldworth replied: “A barrier solution could have been implemented.”
Mr Aldworth said Westminster Bridge was not seen “as a specific location for a specific threat” and therefore there was no cause “to mitigate against that threat”.
Retired window cleaner Leslie Rhodes, 75, mother-of-two Aysha Frade, 44, American visitor Kurt Cochran, 54, and Romanian tourist Andreea Cristea, 31, were killed when Masood drove his hire vehicle into pedestrians, while Mr Palmer was stabbed to death inside the Parliamentary estate by the armed terrorist.
An inquest into the death of 52-year-old Masood – who was shot dead by armed officers during the attack – will take place at a later date.