The following article was originally published in the North Wales Weekly News newspaper on 5 April 2017.
For PC Keith Palmer, Wednesday 22 March, 2017, was expected to be a routine day on duty at the Palace of Westminster. Prime Minister’s Questions are held on Wednesdays, so PC Palmer would have expected to wave Theresa May’s Jaguar through Carriage Gates and ensure it entered New Palace Yard safely. Otherwise, it would be the usual round of checking vehicles, exchanging words with MPs and posing for selfies with the crowds of tourists who congregate around the gates.
22 March, however, was not a routine day. A man who called himself Khalid Massood, but who had started life under the name of Adrian Elms, decided – for reasons yet to be established – to go berserk. Massood drove his hire car erratically at high speed across Westminster Bridge, killing or injuring over 40 people, before colliding with the Palace’s security fencing. He then abandoned the vehicle and ran to Carriage Gates, where he was challenged by PC Palmer and a colleague as he entered New Palace Yard. PC Palmer appears to have slipped to the ground, whereupon Massood stabbed him with a large knife. Two plain clothes officers then shot Massood. PC Palmer died of his wounds.
Keith Palmer and his colleague were unarmed. They were aware that the threat level at Westminster had been set at “severe” – meaning an attack was highly likely – for several months. Yet they, and other officers, showed up at work every day, helping to protect the centre of our national democracy.
Last week it was announced that Keith Palmer’s coffin will rest in the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft in the Palace on 9 and 10 April, before his funeral at Southwark Cathedral. This is a rare honour, reserved in recent times for such senior figures as Margaret Thatcher and Tony Benn.
Whenever people become cynical about our police officers, they should stop and think of Keith Palmer. The police – be they in Westminster or North Wales – put their lives on the line for all of us, and our values, every single working day. They deserve our unqualified gratitude and respect.