Hundreds of people gathered on Westminster bridge and outside the Houses of Parliament to pay their respects to the four people who were killed in last week’s terror attack in central London.
At 2.40pm on Wednesday, precisely a week after Khalid Masood drove into crowds of tourists and passersby on the bridge before stabbing to death a police officer at the nearby Palace of Westminster, the crowds fell silent, many bowing their heads.
Among their number were scores of police officers, some of whom carried a single white rose in tribute to their murdered colleague PC Keith Palmer, and dozens of Muslim faith leaders, schoolchildren and young people who were united in their condemnation of the attack.
They gathered alongside Jewish and Christian faith leaders, tourists, workers from nearby offices, medics from nearby St Thomas’ hospital – many of whom had rushed to treat the injured a week earlier – and other passersby.
Standing by a lamp-post to which bunches of daffodils and tulips had been tied, Margaret Blackwell fought back tears as she said she “just had to come” from her home in Kensworth, Bedfordshire, to pay her respects. How would she describe the mood? “It’s very melancholy. We all feel the same. It’s complete shock.”
Noelle Lynch, an Irishwoman now living in the Isle of Dogs, east London, had brought her sons Rowan, 12, and Jack, eight, because having lived through the IRA campaigns in London in the 1980s, “I think it’s so important to show that we all stand together.”
Her children had been a little nervous about coming, she said, “but I said: ‘Don’t worry. We’re not going to give in.’ That’s what I noticed about London. It’s all about showing we are not scared.”
The vigil was one of a number of commemorations that took place on Wednesday, including a minute’s silence observed at New Scotland Yard, the Metropolitan police headquarters. The Duke of Cambridge, visiting the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, laid a wreath for Palmer at the police memorial.
Three people were killed and more than 50 injured when Masood’s Hyundai 4×4 ploughed along the pavement on the bridge at more than 70mph – American tourist Kurt Cochran, Aysha Frade, a British teacher originally from northern Spain, and Londoner Leslie Rhodes, 75, all died.
Masood then stabbed and killed Palmer, having burst through the gates of the Houses of Parliament complex. He was shot dead by plainclothes officers moments later.
Aside from the officers who had come to pay their respects, the police presence was highly visible, with police vans and mounted officers securing either end of the bridge, and others in high visibility uniform mingling with the crowd, along with a number of heavily armed officers carrying semi-automatic weapons.
Manuel Rua was leading a party of 15 and 16-year-olds from from As Barxas school in the town of Moaña, Galicia, the same region as Frade’s birthplace. The students, though a little nervous after arriving in the UK only yesterday, had asked to come and lay flowers, he said. “It was their idea to do this, to pay their respects and in a humble way to express how deeply they have been affected by this.”Abdul Hye Khan, the secretary of Bangladeshi Muslims UK, said he had gathered with other Muslim community and faith leaders “to show our solidarity with those killed here by this barbaric attack. We don’t support this kind of attack in the name of Islam or any other faith.”
On Wednesday, the family of Frade released a statement saying she would be remembered as a “guardian angel who never shied away from facing up to bullies”.
It read: “Our beloved Aysha; caring daughter, loving sister, amazing wife, irreplaceable aunt, thoughtful, supportive friend and the best and coolest of mummies.
“You were ripped away from our lives in the cruellest and most cowardly of ways. We now pray that you guide and protect not only us, but all of London, from further evil.
“There are no words to even begin to describe the crushing pain and eternal void left in our hearts.”
The police presence was highly visible on the bridge, with police vans and mounted officers securing the ends of the bridge, and others in uniform mingling with the crowd, along with a number of officers carrying semi-automatic weapons.
Police officers also held a minute’s silence outside New Scotland Yard. Craig Mackey, the acting commissioner of the Metropolitan police, said: “This afternoon is about remembering the victims of last week’s events. Our thoughts, our prayers, go out to everyone who was affected by the events last week.
“I would urge you, if you get time, to go on to the bridge, talk to Londoners, talk and get a feel for this great city and how it’s come together in responding to these events.”
Police arrested 12 people after the attack. One, a 58-year-old man from Birmingham who was detained on suspicion of preparation of terrorist acts, was released on Wednesday with no further action.
A 30-year-old man remains in custody and a 32-year-old woman has been bailed, having been arrested on suspicion of the same offence. The other nine have been released. Officers have carried out searches at 17 addresses across England and Wales.