Terror in Woolwich: One woman was crying - ‘They killed him. They killed him’

Dazed residents are still coming to terms with the shocking scenes they witnessed

The residents who gathered around the scene of the barbaric attack in Woolwich this afternoon struggled to articulate their horror.

Some described this part of south-east London as a peaceful and quiet place, while others said there was  “always trouble”. All were stunned by the cruelty that had bloodied their streets.

Olu Peluola, 53, was one of the  people who saw the sickening scene unfold. “I saw a man’s body lying in the street. There was a man standing beside him holding a knife,” he said. “People were standing around. One woman was crying, saying ‘They killed him. They killed him.’”

Astonishingly, the suspected killers stood around after the alleged attack, asking passers-by to film their  statements. Witnesses described how local women risked their own lives in attempt to shield the soldier victim from further indignities.

“In my opinion, they were waiting for the police to arrive to be shot by the police. That’s the only thing I can think,” one witness called James told LBC radio.

Julia Wilders, 51, who lives near the scene, said she saw one of the attackers run towards police clutching two meat cleavers when officers eventually arrived.

“He ran towards police before they could even get out of the car, and it looked like the other one was going to lift the gun up,” she said. “We were driving back and my husband said to me ‘don’t look, they’re resuscitating someone’. But apparently they were stabbing him.”

By mid-afternoon the ambulance crews had arrived in force and detectives had locked off the area surrounding the incident with layer after layer of cordons.

The sound of police helicopters filled the skies overhead as those  living nearby looked on helplessly  and the few who had witnessed the  terrible crime tried to make sense of the terror they had seen.

Sherifah William, 29, who lives right next to where the killings happened, told how she initially feared there had been a shooting at the primary school nearby that her children attend.

Waiting with her neighbours outside the police cordon, the 29-year-old said: “When I saw the air ambulance I  panicked because it landed first at the school, so I thought something had happened there.

“My neighbour called me to say there had been a shooting so I ran out to get my kids and then the police shouted to get back. I saw the body being taken away – there were so many ambulances.”

Woolwich was traditionally a white, working-class area, famous for its shipping docks and military barracks.

But over the years it has become a popular place for immigrant communities settling in Britain.

And most recently the area started on the path to “gentrification” with former factories turned into £1m  luxury apartments.

Woolwich Royal Artillery Barracks has been part of the area’s history for more than 200 years and last year it hit the headlines when the prestigious King’s Troops regiment transferred there.

Robert, 65, who has resided in Woolwich for over 30 years, lives a stone’s throw from where the killings happened in Charles Grimling Walk.

He said: “It’s peaceful around here, so what’s happened is a very strange occurrence – you just can’t get your head around it.

“I’d say it’s mainly decent, working class people living here. There are lots of different cultures but we all seem to get along well. And there’s no more crime than there is in any other part of London.”

But a mother-of-one, Naomi, 27, who lives with her partner and baby in flats just yards from where the incident, painted a somewhat different picture of Woolwich. She said: “Our flat has been evacuated. I’m worried because I live adjacent to where it happened and who’s unwell.  Woolwich is known for trouble.

“A lot of shootings happen near to the station and Woolwich Arsenal.”

Tributes paid to brave public

Tributes were paid last night to the courageous actions of members of the public who attempted to shield the soldier’s body from further attack.

Keith Vaz MP, the Labour chairman of the Home Affairs select committee, said: “It shows the spirit of London that people are just not prepared to allow an attack of this kind.” Patrick Mercer, Tory MP for Newark, added: “This is courage of the highest order.”

Sam Masters

Eyewitness: One man’s version

A Twitter user called Boya Dee posted a series of tweets purporting to make up a terrifying eyewitness account of the incident. They could not be confirmed nor was he available for comment. He wrote:

“Ohhhhh myyyy God!!!! I just see a man with his head chopped off right in front of my eyes!”

“Mate ive seen alot of s*** im my time but that has to rank sumwhere in the top 3. I couldnt believe my eyes. That was some movie s***.”

“The two black bredas run this white guy over over then hop out the car and start chopping mans head off with machete!!”

“People were asking whyyy whyyy they were just saying we’ve had enough! They looked like they were on sutn! Then they start waving a revolver”

“Then thats how u know they were on sutn cos they actually went for armed feds with just two machete and an old rusty lookin revolver”

“Then the next breda try buss off the rusty 45 and it just backfires and blows mans finger clean off... Feds didnt pet to just take him out!!”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Buttoned up: Ryan Reynolds with Helen Mirren in ‘Woman in Gold’
filmFor every box-office smash in his Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. Now he says it's time for a reboot
News
people
News
Actress Julianne Moore wins the Best Actress in a Leading Role Award for 'Still Alice' during the 87th Annual Academy Awards in Hollywood, California
people
Sport
Ross Barkley
footballPaul Scholes says it's time for the Everton playmaker to step up and seize the England No 10 shirt
News
'We will fix it': mice in the 1970s children’s programme Bagpuss
science
Life and Style
2 Karl Lagerfeld and Choupette
fashion
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head

Hack Circus: Technology, art and learning

Hack Circus aims to turn the rule-abiding approach of TED talks on its head. Rhodri Marsden meets mistress of ceremonies Leila Johnston
Sevenoaks is split over much-delayed decision on controversial grammar school annexe

Sevenoaks split over grammar school annexe

If Weald of Kent Grammar School is given the go-ahead for an annexe in leafy Sevenoaks, it will be the first selective state school to open in 50 years
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
Paul Scholes column: Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now

Paul Scholes column

Ross Barkley played well against Italy but he must build on that. His time to step up and seize that England No 10 shirt is now
Why Michael Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Why Carrick is still proving an enigma for England

Manchester United's talented midfielder has played international football for almost 14 years yet, frustratingly, has won only 32 caps, says Sam Wallace
Tracey Neville: The netball coach who is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

Tracey Neville is just as busy as her brothers, Gary and Phil

The former player on how she is finding time to coach both Manchester Thunder in the Superleague and England in this year's World Cup
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?