Five people are now dead, including a policeman, after the terrorist attack on Parliament in London. The five include the man, shot dead by police after driving into 40 pedestrians on Westminster Bridge (three of whom have now died) and stabbing and killing PC Keith Palmer on Wednesday
The other fact that has come to light is that the terrorist, himself, came from Rye. It seems impossible that our peaceful and lovely old town could breed such a person, but nevertheless, this appears to be the case.
Born Adrian Elms in Dartford, he and his single mother moved to Rye, where he is believed to have been brought up. At some point he had a religious conversion to Islam, changed his name to Khalid Masood.
The events at Westminster were not his first attempt at violence. In 2000 he was sentenced to two years in Lewes prison for violence and after later being released from Ford open prison, in West Sussex, he was sent back to prison for possession of an offensive weapon, having stabbed a man outside a nursing home. At some point he became radicalised, possibly while in prison.
Masood, 52, appears to have lived a somewhat peripatetic life after leaving Rye and regularly used a number of aliases. He was known to the police and believed to be a ‘peripheral’ figure on the radical islamist scene. Although hiring the car used in the attack from Birmingham, he spent his last night back in Sussex – in a cheap hotel in Brighton – before driving to London on Wednesday morning. Brighton was included in the areas where a number of raids were subsequently made by police and although seven people, in total, are believed to have been arrested, none were from that city.
It is understood that the police who shot him were from the personal protection squad that guarded defence secretary Sir Michael Fallon. It is good to know that those in authority and who represent us in Parliament, the are looked after by men and women who are clearly so alert and well trained.
Islamic State has claimed that Masood was one of its ‘soldiers’. However, our own MP and Home Secretary, Amber Rudd has told the BBC, “We all know Daesh [Isis], we all know that they want to have a terrorist attack in the UK. We know that Daesh have tried to claim some responsibility. We don’t know that yet but what we do know is that they want to exploit it by putting fear into people and saying it was all about them. We will see.”
Rye swim and run coach and personal trainer, Hazel Fulker was in the vicinity at the time, having just completed an outpatients visit to a local hospital with her son. She recalls “initially we were in lock down and when we were finally able to start to make our way home, all we could hear were the sounds of sirens and helicopters and see lots of flashing blue lights, ambulances and police vehicles. We walked through people clearly in a state of shock, and I was worried in case the train stations might also be hit. At that point I just wanted to get us both home. I felt a mixture of both sadness and anger that something like this could happen and was worried about the effect on my young son. But he was brave and coped well with it all – perhaps his sea cadet training was showing through! It was a relief, though, to arrive back at Rye Station.”
Update to this story:
It is now clear that Masood spent time in Northiam as an adult where he was not a popular character, and was at school – at least for his secondary education, in Tunbridge Wells. Less, however, is known at present of his early years, and whether he actually lived for a time with his mother in the town of Rye (which he is certainly known to have visited at the very least) or whether he was in Northiam, where Rye is often added to the postal address, is not clear. Our sources differ on this, with both places being mentioned. Doubtless all will become clear in time.
Photo: Sam Coates for The Times