The bodies that lay scattered on Westminster Bridge told the horrible, brutal truth. Victims lay in pools of blood on the pavement or else in the road. One person had jumped out of the way – or else been hit so violently hard by a speeding car- and ended up at the bottom of the stone steps that lead from the Embankment up to the bridge.
The body appeared lifeless and spread-eagled, a pool of blood gathering on the rain-soaked pavement. It didn’t look like anything could help him.
The photographs and video footage, much of it too distressing to publish, revealed the devastating aftermath of what had long been feared but sadly predicted – a seeming terrorist attack on the political centre of the United Kingdom. At just after 2.40pm on Wednesday afternoon, the Palace of Westminster came under attack.
Eyewitness accounts described how a grey car sped along Westminster Bridge, heading northbound towards Parliament Square.
Richard Tice told Sky News how he had seen between eight and 10 bodies lying prostrate on the ground on Westminster Bridge. “The car drove along the pavement knocking people over,” said Mr Tice.
The car, a Hyundai i40 SUV, mowed down anyone in its way.
Radek Sikorski, Poland’s former foreign minister and now a senior fellow with the Harvard Centre for European Studies, had been in a taxi being driven on the bridge.
Mr Sikorski posted a video to Twitter showing people lying injured in the road. He estimated at least five people were lying on the ground after being “mown down” by a car.
“I heard what I thought was just a collision and then I looked through the window of the taxi and someone down, obviously in great distress,” he told the BBC.
“Then I saw a second person down, and I started filming, then I saw three more people down, one of them bleeding profusely.”
The car then drove on to the pavement under the shadow of Big Ben and crashed into the iron railings that surround parliament. The driver, described as an Asian-looking man in his 40s, jumped out of the vehicle and begun running down the road and around the corner to the gates of parliament that allow entry and exit for the cars for dignitaries.
The man was wielding what has been described variously as either a large knife or else a machete. He then stabbed a police officer before being shot himself. Witness heard three to six shots ring out. The attacker had managed to reach inside parliament’s compound, maybe 50 feet from the entrance gate before finally being stopped.
Rick Longley told the Press Association how he saw the man stab the policeman.
Fighting back tears, he said: “We were just walking up to the station and there was a loud bang and a guy, someone, crashed a car and took some pedestrians out.
“They were just laying there and then the whole crowd just surged around the corner by the gates just opposite Big Ben.
“A guy came past my right shoulder with a big knife and just started plunging it into the policeman.
“I have never seen anything like that. I just can’t believe what I just saw.”
Katie Marthini, who was on holiday and visiting Westminster, said: “We heard four shots. It was in the enclosure next to Big Ben. I was next to it. I didn’t see what happened next, it’s terrifying we ran. Everyone was running.”
Quentin Letts, the Daily Mail’s parliamentary sketch writer, said he saw a man dressed in black attack a police officer outside Parliament before being shot two or three times as he tried to storm the House of Commons.
“I saw a thick-set man in black clothes come through the gates into New Palace Yard, just below Big Ben,” he told the BBC.
“He had something in his hand, it looked like a stick of some sort, and he was challenged by a couple of policemen in yellow jackets.
“And one of the yellow-jacketed policemen fell down and we could see the man in black moving his arm in a way that suggested he was stabbing or striking the yellow-jacketed policeman.”
The other officer ran to get help and the man in black ran about 15 yards towards the entrance, he said.
He added: “As this attacker was running towards the entrance two plain-clothed guys with guns shouted at him what sounded like a warning, he ignored it and they shot two or three times and he fell.”
Kevin Schofield, the editor of PoliticsHome.com, heard “a very loud bang” from the press gallery inside the Houses of Parliament followed by lots of shouting and men running around.
He initially thought it was a car crash but then he looked outside the window to a heavily-guarded area outside which is out of bounds to the public.
He told Sky News: “Someone rushed through, attacked a policeman, a policeman went down, another policeman came and he was rescued.
“The man who had assaulted him got up and he appeared to be carrying either a knife or a gun. Then we heard gunfire, lots of gunfire, maybe five or six rounds.
“All I remember seeing is the man approaching the police officer probably with a knife and then there was gunfire.
“He was walking towards a second policeman with his arm outstretched, with what looked like a knife in his hand, having already assaulted another policeman.
“It was at that moment that you realised that something serious was happening – a man had broken in to Parliament and had a weapon.”
Parliament was suspended and Theresa May bundled into a silver Jaguar and bundled from the premises.
An air ambulance helicopter landed in Parliament Square and paramedics rushed to treat the injured. Others were driven off in ambulances.