The Spectator

‘Soldier beheaded’ in Woolwich, south London - live reaction

'Soldier beheaded' in Woolwich, south London - live reaction
Text settings

Summary: A British solider has been reported to have been beheaded on the streets of Woolwich, south east London by two men at 2:20pm afternoon. The BBC is reporting the murder may have been filmed over cries of 'Allahu Akbar' . ITV has released footage of a man carrying a bloodied knife saying 'remove your governments - they don't care about you.' 

Home Secretary Theresa May chaired a meeting of Cobra, the government's emergency response committee, suggesting that the incident was a terrorist attack. Police shot two men, who had lingered at the scene. They are receiving emergency treatment at separate hospitals. 

2121: Theresa May has made a short statement following the Cobra meeting earlier:

'What happened in today Woolwich was a sickening and barbaric attack. I have been briefed by the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police and the Director General of the Security Service'

'The police and the Security Service are establishing the full facts of this barbaric case, but there is a strong indication it was an act of terrorism.'

2051: The BBC have released a photo of a second man holding a knife in Woolwich:

2027: Fraser Nelson offers his thoughts about why the government is concerned about what happens next:

'If this is a terrorist attack – and the government is certainly treating it like one – it is like no other. There are pictures of the suspected murderer lingering after the attack, and locals remonstrating with him.  A man with bloodied hands talks into a video camera saying 'remove your governments' as an elderly women nudges past him with a shopping bag. He is waiting for the police to arrive.

There is no suggestion of future or copycat attacks, but the Cobra Cabinet meeting will be as concerned with the reaction in the streets this evening than what happened at 2pm this afternoon.

2012: The Muslim Council of Britain has released a statement, condemning the attack:

'This is a truly barbaric act that has no basis in Islam and we condemn this unreservedly. Our thoughts are with the victim and his family. We understand the victim is a serving member of the Armed Forces. Muslims have long served in this country's Armed Forces, proudly and with honour. This attack on a member of the Armed Forces is dishonourable, and no cause justifies this murder.'

2002: Ed Miliband has released a full statement on the attack:

'This is a truly appalling murder which will shock the entire country. All of my thoughts are with the family and friends of the The British people will be horrified by what has happened in Woolwich. They will be united in believing that this terror on our streets cannot be allowed to stand.

'The Labour Party will offer the Government our complete support in establishing the facts of what happened and ensuring that those responsible face the full force of British justice.'

1950: After an hour of discussion, the Cobra meeting chaired by Theresa May is over. The Defence Secretary, Mayor of London, Met Commissioner and intelligence agencies were all in attendance. The room was told there are 'strong indications' it was a terrorist incident:

1940: The Queen was due to visit the King's Troop Royal Horse Artillery at Woolwich barracks next Friday - a spokesman said:

'The Queen is of course concerned by the report of an attack in Woolwich earlier today. Her Majesty is being kept informed'.

1931: Our Evening Blend email has just gone out, with Isabel Hardman reporting on what the Prime Minister said in his Paris press conference:

David Cameron has just spoken in Paris following the killing of a person in Woolwich. The victim is reported to have been beheaded, and the local MP Nick Raynsford said they were a serving soldier. Cameron described the attack as 'absolutely sickening'. He added: "We obviously are urgently seeking the full facts about this case but there are strong indications that this is a terrorist incident. "In Britain, we have had these sorts of attacks before. We never buckle. "The terrorists will never win because they can never beat the values that we hold dear."

1927: The Met have said they will have a heavy presence in Woolwich tonight amid expectations that groups like the English Defence League will attempt to cause to trouble. The EDL's Twitter feed suggests they are heading there.

1925: David Cameron is now giving a press conference with François Hollande in Paris. More soon.

1917: Douglas Murray has blogged on why this attack is not entirely unexpected: 


Over recent years, those who have warned that such attacks would come here have been attacked as ‘racists’, ‘fascists’ and — most commonly — ‘Islamophobes’. A refusal to recognise the actual threat (a growingly radicalised Islam) has dominated most of our media and nearly all our political class.'

1854: ITV News have broadcast a deeply disturbing video of the man, who says the following:

'I apologise that women had to witness this today. But in our land, our women have to see the same. You people will never be safe. Remove your governments, they don’t care about you.

'Do you think David Cameron is going gonna get caught in the street when we start bussing our guns? Do you think your politicians are gonna die? No it's gonna be the average guys, like you and your children. So get rid of them, tell them to trip our troops back

'The only reason we have done this is because Muslims are dying by British soldiers every day. This British soldier is an eye-for-eye, a tooth-for-a-tooth'

listen to ‘"Remove your governments" - man with bloodied hands at Woolwich murder scene’ on Audioboo

1842: ITV have also published a photo of a man, holding a bloodied knife near the scene. He was reported to have said:

'We swear by almighty Allah we will never stop fighting you'

1840: Statement from Downing Street on the Prime Minister's movements:

'The Prime Minister has spoken to the Home Secretary, who he asked to chair COBR. He has been briefed on all developments of the Woolwich shooting. He will return to London tonight and will chair COBR in the morning'

1836: ITV News has just run the first footage of the attack, taken by a passerby. ITV reported that the men waited for the police to turn up, and while they wielded knives there is no reports of them bearing firearms. 1827: A passerby, Graham Wilders, witnesses the attack and spoke to the BBC:-

listen to ‘Graham Wilders, eyewitness to Woolwich attack, on BBC News’ on Audioboo

(function() { var po = document.createElement("script"); po.type = "text/javascript"; po.async = true; po.src = ""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })(); </p> <p><strong>1821</strong>: David Cameron is reported to be cutting short his trip to Paris. He was due to meet François Hollande after their last summit was cancelled due to the death of Baroness Thatcher. A press conference will be held as soon as he arrives at the Élysée Palace. <em>Update: it's expected about 8pm.</em></p> <p><strong>1813</strong>: Here was the scene near John Wilson Street in Woolwich this afternoon, where an air ambulance and four crews landed this afternoon:</p> <p><img class="alignright size-full wp-image-8524381" alt="603804_524364607621060_1785932344_n" src="" width="520" height="390" /> <strong><br /> </strong></p> <p><strong>1811: </strong>The Metropolitan Police have just released a statement:</p> <blockquote><p>'At approx 1420 we were called to reports of an assault in John Wilson Street, Woolwich where one man was being assaulted by two other men. 'A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm. 'Officers including local Greenwich officers arrived at the scene and shortly after firearms officers arrived on the scene. 'On their arrival at the scene they found a man, who was later pronounced dead. At this early stage I am unable to provide any further information about the man who has died. 'Two men, who we believe from early reports to have been carrying weapons, were shot by police. They were taken to separate London hospitals, they are receiving treatment for their injuries. 'I can understand that this incident will cause community concerns, and I would like to reiterate that we are investigating what has taken place today. 'The MPS will investigate the circumstances that led to a man to lose his life and the IPCC, as is routine, will investigate the circumstances in which police discharged their weapons.'<em id="__mceDel"> </em></p></blockquote> <div class="ab-player" data-boourl=""><a href="">listen to ‘Met Police statement on Woolwich attack, 6pm 22/5/13’ on Audioboo</a></div> <p><script type="text/javascript"> (function() { var po = document.createElement("script"); po.type = "text/javascript"; po.async = true; po.src = ""; var s = document.getElementsByTagName("script")[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(po, s); })(); </p> <p><strong>1820</strong>: Sky reports that David Cameron is expected to cut sort his trip to Paris and return to London.</p> <p><strong>1808</strong>: More reports from Sky News of 'Allahu Akbar' chants:</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Sky Sources: two attackers were chanting "Allahu Akbar" and asked passers-by to take photographs of them at the scene <a href="">#Woolwich</a></p> <p>— Sky News Newsdesk (@SkyNewsBreak) <a href="">May 22, 2013</a></p></blockquote> <p><script charset="utf-8" type="mce-text/javascript" src="//" async="">

1751:  James reports in on the nature of the attack:


Nick Robinson is now reporting that he’s been informed that ‘Alluhu Akbar’ was shouted as the attack was carried out. 'The more we learn about the Woolwich incident, the more it seems that a soldier was deliberately targeted by an Islamist terrorist group. This is going to raise questions about the security of barracks around the country. 'So far, though, there are no indications that the security services are expecting further attacks.'

17:48: Boris Johnson, who has cancelled a lecture he was due to give at the LSE , has spoken about the attack:

17:43: Reports are coming through on the nature of the attack:

17:35: James Forsyth on the political implications of the attack:

'In response to the Woolwich incident, Conbra is being convened. Tom Newton Dunn, The Sun's political editor, is also reporting that the Met are treating this as a terrorist incident. This means that the terrorism issue, which has dropped down the political agenda in the last few years, will again become a big part of our politics.'

17.30 Theresa May has summommed a meeting of the Cobra committee to assess Woolwich incident. She's also spoken to Met Commissioner and head of MI5.

The Metropolitan Police are expected to release a further statement on the incident within the next half hour.

17:05: Here's an eyewitness report from Luke Huseyin who spotted the incident. As reported at the Telegraph:

'I was at home and heard a big bang. I looked out of the window and saw a car had crashed. It was a blue Vauxhall. Then two black guys got out of the car dragging a white guy across the road towards the wall.

'One of the guys had a knife that looked about a foot long and a machete and the other bloke had a gun. They started slashing him up with the knife and hitting him in the stomach with the machete. I don't think it took long before he was dead.

'There were people passing by who were screaming and running away. I've never seen anything like it. I'm still really shaken up. When he was dead, they dragged him out into the road and left him there.'

'It was strange, they didn't run off, they just stood there as if they were waiting for the police. It must've taken about 20 minutes for the police to arrive, I think it must've been because they were waiting for armed police.

The police officers got out of the car and the two blakc men ran towards them with the gun. The police shot them.

'They fell to the ground. Then a helicopter landed. Think it must've been an air ambulance. The paramedics got out and I think they were working on the two men to try and keep them alive. I don't know if they died, they were taken away in the helicopter. A blanket was put over the white guy lying in the road. I just can't believe what I saw.'

17:00: Reports are still coming in, but the BBC reports an eyewitness saying:

'I got there minutes after it happened because you could hear gun shots from Woolwich high street, basically two men carried out an axe attack on a young army cadet walking along the street, by the looks of things the police responded and then shot them in front of the public, at the same time I couldn't really tell if the cadet was fatally or not hurt as police were crowded around him.'

Reports suggest the soldier was wearing a Help for Heroes T-shirt. Nick Raynsford, the local MP, has said:

'What I have heard from both the borough commander and the station commander of the barracks indicate this was a serious incident involving a number of weapons including firearms. I am told that one of the individuals involved in the incident... is a soldier serving in the Army in the barracks.'