Middle East terrorism returns to capital: Car-bomb explosion at Israeli embassy sends hail of razor-sharp shards flying across exclusive South Kensington residential area

COMMANDER David Tucker, the head of Scotland Yard's terrorist branch, took five hours from the time of the blast to state that Middle East terrorism had returned to the streets of London.

For those in the immediate vicinity - who had been deafened, shaken, covered in flying glass and dust, or feared their time had come - it may have taken only a few seconds to realise that London's embassy heartland with its select royal residences was, again, not always a safe place to be.

The bomb went off at 12.10pm. The explosion sent razor-sharp shards flying across the roads around the Israeli embassy. Eyewitnesses described how, seconds after the huge noise, heard miles away, black billowing smoke appeared and confirmed their worst fears.

'They've hit Kensington Palace,' was the initial fear of Chris Hamer, owner of a nearby art gallery. Others had a more direct experience. Glass shopfronts were blown out of local shops, staff were quickly evacuated. Amanda Wills, manager of Monsoon in Kensington Church Street, said: 'We knew right away it was a bomb.'

An American tourist, David Bergstrom, walking out of Kensington High Steet tube station, was knocked off his feet. 'We came for a holiday. We never expected this,' he said.

Backing on to the Israeli complex is Ashbourne Tutorial College. Summer biology revision for 15-year-old Adam Walford, turned into an explosion of glass into the classroom. Pupils were treated for minor cuts.

Those nearest the bomb - the staff inside the embassy - made their way out, dazed, through the security gates at the top of Kensington Palace Gardens. There was a clear sense that somehow they had cheated death.

Ruby Cohen, 22, a secretary on the first floor of the consulate said: 'I was sitting in the office and there was no warning, nothing. There was a bang. The whole building jolted. There was shouting and some screaming but things seemed calm. We just knew it was a car.'

Staff slowly emerged from the now cordoned-off private embassy road. Some had blood running from cuts to the sides of their faces, the tops of their heads, blood running off their hands. One man who kept asking police about his wife - 'My wife is in there, she's in there' - nearly crushed her with affection when she miraclously appeared behind him in a crowd of media confusion.

Commander Tucker and his staff appeared astonished that no one had been killed. If not miracles, then sheer luck was responsible for the fact there were no deaths.

An Irish scaffolder was blown across a road by the force of the blast. Maurice Murphy discharged himself two hours later from Charing Cross hospital. He had been blown into the street and glass had rained down on him. He said that when he looked up, all he could see was a car torn apart and still in flames.

Another witness, Desmond Warren, said the explosion had left the car lying across a pavement. Inside the Israeli embassy, the damage was extensive. An astonishly calm second secretary, Amir Amimon, described the staff evacuation as though a light blub had impacted, not 30lb of high explosives.

But a ceiling of the building had collapsed on secretarial staff. Windows had been blown in. The small consulate building to the rear of the embassy was almost destroyed. There were no warnings.

The explosion lasted a split second. But the agony for a young newly-wed couple lasted two hours. They had been working on the newly refurbished embassy, decorating it. Doris Perez, 25, had left her husband at the embassy to buy lunch only seconds before the bomb went off.

She said she saw a woman parking a car between the embassy and a private house next door. 'It was a grey Audi. A security guard immediately became suspicious but the woman walked off.'

She went on: 'I missed the bomb by seconds. I was terrified. There was glass falling all around me but it just missed. I was terrified my husband was dead. I thought for sure he had been killed.'

William Perez, 37, eventually found his wife wandering around dazed near a telephone box where embassy staff were calling relations in Israel to say they had escaped unhurt.

One shouted down the telephone: 'Tell everybody we are all right. We are alive.'

(Photograph omitted)

Life and Style
life
News
Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie reportedly married in secret on Saturday
peopleSpokesperson for couple confirms they tied the knot on Saturday after almost a decade together
Life and Style
Chen Mao recovers in BK Hospital, Seoul
health
News
Joan Rivers has reportedly been hospitalised after she stopped breathing during surgery
people81-year-old 'stopped breathing' during vocal chord surgery
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Diana from the Great British Bake Off 2014
tvProducers confirm contestant left because of illness
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
Life and Style
fashion

Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, UI, JMX, FIX)

Negotiable: Harrington Starr: Client-Side web developer (JQuery, Javascript, U...

Structured Finance

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: CITY - An excellent new instruction w...

SQL Server Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL Server Developer SQL, PHP, C#, Real Time,...

C#.NET Developer

£600 per day: Harrington Starr: C#.NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone