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Political journalists found themselves on the terror frontline in attack on Westminster

By Freddy Mayhew

A number of political journalists based at the Houses of Parliament witnessed the attack at its gates that resulted in the death of a police officer, a suspected terrorist yesterday.

Lobby journalists – those given access to Parliament to report on proceedings – found themselves at the heart of the incident as they went about their jobs.

Two members of the public were also killed yesterday when the attacker drove at pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

Journalists already inside Parliament when the attack unfolded were held inside for up to five hours along with MPs and staff while police secured the area.

Politics Home editor Kevin Schofield and Daily Telegraph chief political correspondent Christopher Hope appeared to be first to break news of the shooting on Twitter.

Schofield said: “Sounds like gunfire at Parliament,” with Hope simultaneously posting: “Gun shots outside Parliament now.”

News of recent terror attacks in Europe have typically been broken by members of the public.

Schofield later shared his account on Twitter, saying: “There was a loud crash outside parliament, then lots of shouting. I saw a policeman being assaulted, then a man carrying a knife or gun.”

Hope said: “Shots fired outside Parliament. Loud explosion then shooting. Man lying shot outside gates to Parliament. Gun shots outside, Frightening.”

In a short video clip, Newsnight lead presenter Evan Davis revealed he heard “three shots” that sounded like gunfire.

He added: “I looked out and saw a car had mounted the pavement and crashed into the wall, protecting the grounds of Westminster Palace… and what looked like a member of the public lying injured next to that car and another member of the public, a cyclist, tending to that person…”

“By the time Big Ben chimed at three there was a strange hush really as people just watched and some were filming and there was just the noise of sirens in the background as more and more police arrived.”

Politico’s chief UK political correspondent Tom McTague said on Twitter: “Before the attack, parliamentary journalists at their desks heard a loud bang, like a car crash, then the sound of panicked shouting/screams.”

He added: “What I saw: Screaming crowd running, attacker runs through gates, stabs policeman, runs forward & then police shoot at least twice, he falls.”

New Statesman political editor George Eaton said: “From the window of the parliamentary Press Gallery, I have just seen police shoot a man who charged at officers while carrying what appeared to be a knife.”

The Guardian’s John Crace had been due to write a sketch of the day’s prime minister’s questions when he saw the aftermath of the attack that killed PC Keith Palmer.

In a piece for the Guardian he said: “Today I saw a man die. A police officer, someone I had almost certainly said ‘hello’ to at some point over the years. Possibly even this morning. Who knows?

“It was about 2.50pm when a reporter from Bloomberg came running into the Guardian office in the House of Commons to say there had been an incident outside.

“I ran into the offices of the Daily Telegraph that overlook New Palace Yard to see two bodies lying near the entrance to Westminster Hall, just yards from where Airey Neave had been murdered nearly 40 years previously.”

He added: “At various points in the afternoon, with the whole of the Houses of Parliament locked down, I returned to the window to see what was going on.

“It was as if I was somehow hoping that I could rewind time, that I could make what had happened unhappen.”

Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire

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