Four people, including an armed police officer, have been killed after a knifeman brought terror to the heart of Westminster.
The attacker, armed with two large knives, mowed down pedestrians with his car on Westminster Bridge, including schoolchildren, then rushed at the gates in front of the Houses of Parliament, stabbing the policeman before being shot dead by other officers.
Eyewitnesses described scenes of terror when gunfire rang out as the man approached a second officer.
Scotland Yard’s top anti-terror officer Mark Rowley said the two other fatalities were on the bridge when the terrorist struck. At least 20 other people were injured.
Mr Rowley told reporters outside New Scotland Yard, just yards from the scene of the attack: “This was a day we’ve planned for but hoped would never happen. Sadly it is now a reality.”
Paramedics fought to save the officer’s life and that of his attacker on the floor of the cobbled courtyard in front of Parliament, with Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood among those who rushed to help.
The police officer was wheeled away on a stretcher with his face covered.
Mr Ellwood, who lost his brother in the Bali bombing, could be seen pumping the officer’s chest then standing above him, his hands and face smeared with blood.
Other armed officers, some in plain clothes and wearing balaclavas, swarmed around the yard just feet from where MPs had earlier attended Prime Minister’s Questions.
The knifeman drove a grey Hyundai i40 across Westminster Bridge before crashing it into railings then running through the gates of the Palace of Westminster.
His attack left a trail of destruction as paramedics tended to victims on the bridge and at the gate.
One woman hit by the attacker’s car before he reached Parliament was confirmed dead by a doctor at St Thomas’ Hospital. She said others on the bridge suffered ‘catastrophic injuries’.
Another woman who apparently fell into the Thames was rescued and given urgent medical treatment on a nearby pier.
London Ambulance Service said paramedics had treated at least 10 patients on Westminster Bridge.
A party of French schoolchildren were among those targeted on the bridge, with three injured.
Downing Street said Prime Minister Theresa May, who was ushered away from Parliament after the attack, was chairing a meeting of the Government’s emergency Cobra committee.
Mrs May was seen being ushered into a silver Jaguar in the grounds of the palace as what sounded like gunfire rang out at around 2.45pm.
Eyewitness Rick Longley described the attack.
“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.”
An air ambulance landed in Parliament Square and a regular ambulance came in through the front gates as medics rushed to help.
Armed police cleared the area around the incident and Parliament Square and surrounding streets were closed to traffic while Parliament went into lockdown.
Pic: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire