29 – The Arrival of the Armed Police

<< Previous – Next >>

The impression that we are given regarding the armed police’s arrival at the scene is that the officers didn’t know what to expect. Police officer D49, who was driving the Armed Response Vehicle (ARV), essentially said that operational conditions determined the manner that the team would engage – but also that these conditions were an unknown quantity on arrival. Moreover, from what she said in her written witness testimony, it sounded as if though she had a lot of personal spontaneous input into the decision about how the team would arrive. So we could perhaps say that she was working within certain principles according to her own judgement rather than a pre-planned response specific for the incident. Here is a relevant excerpt from her testimony:

I had my sirens and two tones on.

In my head I planned to drive into the road and I thought i would see the suspects and drive past them and cut off their exit route.

I wanted to be in a position to react as quickly as possible. If we went on foot they could have seen us early and fired at us, injuring members of the public.

I decided to drive into Artillery Place to get as close to the suspects as possible.

I saw a flash to my right and saw a black male running at me with both hands in the air in a chopping motion. In his right hand he had a machete.

Recap: Lee Rigby trial updates as police officer tells court of moment she thought she would be killed[1]; Paul Cockerton; 03 December 2013.

Don’t be fooled by the claim of consideration for the public. What D49 is talking about when she refers to that is actually the first duty of care to protect the armed police officer. (We could get into how armed police have to be indispensible to safeguard the British establishment, but that is for another time). She is rationalising the events of the day according to the Met’s principle of shoot to kill; to eliminate the threat to the police officer as soon as possible – but at a time that is most conducive to the safe-keeping of the police officer. She thought that she could take them by surprise, and she didn’t want them to get away. She is in effect saying that, usually, Adebolajo and Adebowale would have been dead at the end of the engagement.

Fig. 113 – and there was another thing! Adebolajo turns on his heel to go back to the bus.
Fig. 113 – and there was another thing! Adebolajo turns on his heel to go back to the bus.

However, D49 said that she became aware of Adebolajo as he was running at the vehicle. Moreover, she said she only became aware of Adebowale after her colleague had started firing at him: “I was so focused on suspect one that it was only when I heard further shots I saw the other man. He had a gun in his hand” is what she went on to tell. This means to say that D49 entered the scene and positioned the car without understanding where Adebolajo or Adebowale were placed in relation to it. It begs the question, how could this team of police hope to “minimise public harm” as is the stated intention, or ensure their own safety as is the unstated one, if they did not understand the landscape of the scene?

In fact, her statement gives the game away somewhat. It represents the viewpoint of someone not knowing what to expect – someone who hadn’t been briefed. All she is concerned about is the efficiency of reaction. She is not concerned with pre-emption. And it makes sense; if the police had pre-emptied the Adebolajo rush at their car, and the Adebowale gun-waving, then how was the public supposed to appreciate the two as being a danger to the British Establishment? That Adebolajo managed to get so close gives the firm empirical impression that the police entered the scene without much regard to him. By this rush, it was demonstrated to the watching public that Adebolajo was intent on attacking police.

Fig. 114 – Adebolajo sees something on his way back to the bus – it makes him return to the pavement. Adebowale might also be having a look.
Fig. 114 – Adebolajo sees something on his way back to the bus – it makes him return to the pavement. Adebowale might also be having a look.

And therefore we can say that D49 drove into the scene in such a way so as to cause a reaction – which surely is not common sense even if it is police standard (which the author does not believe it can be). Everything suggests prior knowledge and artifice. In other words, this doesn’t mean to say that D49 had no idea where the perpetrators were in that scene – although this is the general idea that was established at trial by police witnesses, and also separately in police communications regarding the incident.

After the Rigby trial, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published its findings into the actions of the armed police. (Significantly, they call their armed police “first responders” – and so they are categorised in the same way as emergency services who are yet associated with preventing the loss of life). This is what it had to say about the prior knowledge held by the armed police at Woolwich.

It is clear the officers had seconds to assess the rapidly escalating threat posed, not only to themselves, but also to the many members of the public who had gathered or were walking along the road.

The investigation found that the firearms officers did not know the full extent of the horrific situation that had taken place.

IPCC investigation concludes Metropolitan Police firearms officers acted appropriately to dangerous situation in Woolwich[2]; Press Release; 19 December 2013.

The ignorance of the armed response team was explained in court by E48 as being as a result of the urgency of the situation. This also explained the anomalous small size of the contingent that had responded. Overall, this would explain why there had been no specific plan for engagement, as D49’s testimony suggested.

It’s always better to have more armed units but that was not something we could do at the time.

Woolwich murder trial: Armed police officer ‘feared for her life as Lee Rigby accused charged towards her with machete’[3]; Paul Peachey; 03 December 2013.

Fig. 115 – the Mirror Footage and the Council Footage lined up.
Fig. 115 – the Mirror Footage and the Council Footage lined up.

It should be noted here that the better explanation for only one unit in attendance is that it is much easier to conceal malpractice, and indeed criminality, if it involves fewer people. But let’s focus on the excuse that one team was deployed as a matter of urgency. What we do know is that other teams did not follow – was that because a decision was made that they weren’t needed, or were none available? These questions don’t get answered in the trial – as far as the public can see. There is no examination of police procedure versus what happened. Should we really have expected to see police arrive covertly, and build up strength – adopt positions from whence snipers could have taken the Michaels out? Woolwich wasn’t a hostage situation, and civilians were clearly not in danger – the two perpetrators preferring to converse with them rather than attack.

In court D49 said that she and her two colleagues were in Lewisham when the call came; a call that apparently went like this:

“Trojan unit to assist Artillery Place – man armed with a firearm”.

She also reported that details were given as they drove to the scene.

“I then realised”, she reported “we were attending a very serious incident. CCTV had confirmed the suspects were still on the scene and confirmed they were armed.”

Recap: Lee Rigby trial updates as police officer tells court of moment she thought she would be killed[4]; Paul Cockerton; 03 December 2013.

We get more of a rounder picture of how information was coming to the armed response unit from a Daily Mail article written days after the incident regarding the Metropolitan Police’s response to criticism of the time it took for the ARV to get to the scene. Assistant Commissioner Simon Byrne said uniformed officers arrived at the scene 9 minutes after the first 999 calls were received. In fact, these officers were in radio contact with senior staff “who were able to watch the stand-off via a CCTV camera mounted on a traffic island”[5]. This CCTV camera is probably the one that provided the images of Adebowale and Adebolajo milling about on the scene before charging at the police as they arrived.

It is quite the mystery, therefore, why D49 did not know where the suspects were when she arrived on the scene. They were clearly in the scope of CCTV camera that senior staff were supposed to be watching. These staff were also having conversations with underlings on the scene – any observations sent to them could have been immediately verified. Officially the unarmed police were not allowed to confront Adebolajo and Adebowale because of a fear that they would be walking into a booby trap. It’s not unusual for British police to hide when faced with danger – it’s a consequence of its philosophy. These officers had formed a cordon, apparently, although no police can be seen in any of the photography so it’s not clear where they were. However, police could have accessed the high rise building overlooking the site without being seen by the two perpetrators. Information could have been gathered one way or another.

It becomes clear that the armed response team should have known a great deal about the scenario into which they were entering. And another little clue that the people operating them did have this knowledge was the way the scene was arranged for them prior to their arrival. At the bottom of Artillery Place, the Number 53 bus was reversed so that the ARV could be parked in the space it had previously occupied. In addition, prior to the arrival of the ARV, the pavement at the bottom of Artillery Place was swarming with a watching crowd – as shown in the iconic image in which Adebowale is seen talking to Ingrid Loyau-Kennet that shows a good deal of Woolwich in the background – where, incidentally, we do see what might be the high-visibility clothing of police down in Wellington Street (possibly already controlling traffic). In this image, people are even leaning on the wall that divides the road from the grounds of the high-rise building. When the ARV arrived, all these people had been moved onto the green at the corner of the junction. Someone with an official bearing, if not a badge, must have organised that – who was it? If we don’t see police in uniform – and the police say that they didn’t want to present one of these to the two Michaels – then the crowd must have contained police who were in plain clothes.

All this tells us that the attending ARV must have had instructions to arrive at the east end of Artillery Place, and not the west. It seems pretty clear that the scene was set, and they were guided into it – and while this was going on Adebowale and Adebolajo very helpfully remained in place by the Tigra. It simply cannot be the case that those police did not understand the landscape. The story of a spontaneous encounter does not ring true at all. It was a designed scene in which the police would be seen to provoke a reaction from the perpetrators so as to have them incriminate themselves.

If the reader is still not convinced, then consider the final indication of preparedness. Police officers E48 and E42 immediately sprang from the car with Glock rifles. These weapons normally live in the vehicle locked inside a chest. (“[Officer E48] … had pulled out the MP5 from the safe in the back seat after receiving reports of the suspects armed with knives, a gun and a meat cleaver”[6]). This chest cannot be opened without authorisation from an officer of ACPO rank. If a high-ranking officer cannot be sought o gain permission, in an emergency, this authorisation can be given by a chief inspector.

ARV crews are not unarmed without this permission – they have pistols which can be deployed as the officer sees fit. These might have been the weapons that we might have expected the officers to emerge with if, as the official narrative has it, nobody really understood the event before the ARV crew arrived there. How is a senior officer supposed to grant permission for the use of the MP5 without being able to justify it? It would be highly irresponsible for him or her to do it. As no one got into any trouble as far as we are able to tell, it should be safe to assume that permission was obtained. The people controlling the operation knew lots about where it was going to be executed and upon which suspects. The story of the accidental encounter is a concoction to create plausible deniability with regards to fact that the incident was planned.

Fig. 116 – the man in the bottom right hand corner is only about 30  feet away from the two supposed murderers.
Fig. 116 – the man in the bottom right hand corner is only about 30 feet away from the two supposed murderers.

Then there is a big problem with the very entrance of the ARV in that video evidence differs from the witness testimony of D49. She told the court that she drove the ARV into the crime scene with sirens blaring and lights flashing. These are not audible in the Mirror Footage. A little analysis tells us that we should be able to hear them. If we overlay the Mirror footage with footage captured by council CCTV camera, we can stitch together what happened.

In the CCTV footage, Adebowale is imaged returning from his famous rant made at the door of the Number 53 bus. However, he seems to change his mind, and indicates as such with his body language that he needs to go back – he raised his arm as if to say “and there was something else” (see Fig. 113). But when he steps back into the road, he clearly glances down the hill (Artillery Place), and then turns back toward the Tigra (see Fig. 114). It is just as if he knows that he has run out of time to be elsewhere in the landscape, and needs to return to stand with Adebowale in what quite possibly could be “starting” positions for the shoot-out.

Fig. 117 – the man in black could be there to give Adebolajo and Adebowale their cue.
Fig. 117 – the man in black could be there to give Adebolajo and Adebowale their cue.

Did Adebolajo see something that signalled to him that he had to think about where he needed to be in the scene? If he did, then he was signalled as 14:33:34 according to the timestamp on the footage. He and Adebolajo then kick their heels for a bit until 14:34:07 – more than 30 seconds later. This is the point where he sees something that makes him change his behaviour. Previously pacing aimlessly, he starts taking determined steps down the pavement before he breaks into that dash as the police vehicle.

We can match the Mirror Footage up with the Council Footage, and by doing this we can discover that the Mirror footage commences as 14:34:00 – according to the Council Footage’s timestamp. This is 7 seconds before Adebolajo reacts to start his run down the road. So we can say that the Mirror coverage shows 7 seconds of milling about waiting for the next phase of the operation to begin – the entry of the ARV and Adebolajo’s charge at it. It’s only due to overlaying the Council and Mirror footage that we can tell the ARV came to a halt at 14:34:10. In the Council Footage we never see the car until Adebolajo is almost upon it – perhaps this is deliberate. In the Mirror Footage we can actually see the ARV entering the scope of the camera shot – it appears as a dark shape in the top left hand corner. However, the sirens that should be audible on the video cannot be heard at any time during this waiting period until the car pulls up – that’s 10 whole seconds. We know that we should hear them because later on in the footage the ambulance sirens can be heard at their approach. Moreover, Adebolajo and Adebowale do not seem to react to hearing sirens at a distance. D49 has testified to using them, and as they are meant to be used so that police can make uninterrupted progress in the roads, and because there was apparently an urgent need to get to Artillery Place, the siren should have been heard – both in the footage and by Adebowale and Adebolajo.

Fig. 118 – that man again. The two images have been synchronised.
Fig. 118 – that man again. The two images have been synchronised.

All this information also appears to suggest is that it took between 2 and 3 seconds (closer to 3) for the ARV to get up Artillery Place – to be precise, this is the time between Adebolajo receiving the visual cue, which we would normally expect to be the ARV coming into view as it turned into the road, and when we can witness it come to a halt. This is a reasonable time to do the distance in, but our confidence in having seen anything organic should not unshakeable. It seems very much as the ARV did not enter the scene as D49 said it did in testimony – this means that it did not necessarily enter the scene in the way we should surmise it did by Adebolajo’s reactions. Remember, in fact Adebolajo seemed to receive a visual cue 36 seconds before the ARV comes to a halt. Again, we can be sure it’s not sirens – the two would not have spent the intervening period so demonstrably unconcerned with the approaching police response. They would have been obviously vigilant, and constantly so.

The upshot is that all ideas that we might have of normal cause and event have to be suspended. It’s quite possible that the ARV was on scene well ahead of Adebolajo’s launch at it, and in fact its real arrival could have been that visual cue that he received at 14:33:34. And if the ARV had been on scene without Adebolajo attacking it, then perhaps this wasn’t Adebolajo’s cue. Something else would have had to cause Adebolajo to react. Indeed, there is great suspicion amongst researchers that Adebolajo and Adebowale received direction from a character who could be seen in the footage standing only yards away. This character is a man dressed in black. He can be seen in the iconic image of Adebowale talking to Ingrid Loyau-Kennett (see Fig. 20), and quite unusually, he is the only figure in that composition who is not facing the camera. In other words, he is the only person in the crowd who is not looking at the drama being played out further up Artillery Place. Instead, he seems to be focussed on whatever is going on in the phone conversation that he seems to be having. His phone is locked to his right ear, and he is facing down into the junction.

 Fig. 119 – the man in black strolling into the rear of the green.
Fig. 119 – the man in black strolling into the rear of the green.

This man is the same one who can be seen in the Cam46 council CCTV footage taken from the bottom of Artillery Place. He had the same short bowl-like haircut, and the same collar up at the back of his neck. He is milling about between the “traffic signals changed” lamp post, and the end of the wall, This is the same area he was caught in in the still image just mentioned. This time he is facing up the road towards Adebolajo – who does look at him at 14:33:59. At 14:34:04 – 5 seconds later – the camera scope of vision widens so that we can see this figure walking away from Adebolajo and Adebowale. This is 3 seconds before Adebolajo starts to travel with determination – he is making himself scarce, as we will see. This could be Adebolajo’s cue.

It’s interesting to note that in the council CCTV footage, this man’s face has been pixelated out (see Fig. 118). Perhaps more surprising is the fact that he doesn’t seem to walk away from the Michael’s at much of a pace. One could describe him as ambling. This character is also captured in the Mirror Footage. This perspective reveals the startlingly short distance between him and the two killers – the gap is only about 30 feet. He is not concerned with what the two Michaels might do to him. The overhead shot also reveals that he is still clutching a phone to his right ear – and reinforces just how slowly he makes his way down the pavement. Just as the police start firing, he has moved into the space on the green – the footage shows him following the wall away from the road. He doesn’t seem to display any panic whatsoever. In the Sun Arrest Footage a figure all in black can be seen standing behind a junction box that is located beside that bit of wall (see Fig. 120). This is very likely the same chap.

Fig. 120 – the figure at the front is most likely the man who gave Adebolajo and Adebowale their cue. The other guy could be Cream Hoodie.
Fig. 120 – the figure at the front is most likely the man who gave Adebolajo and Adebowale their cue. The other guy could be Cream Hoodie.

The behaviour of this man is very strange indeed. It is abnormal. If he was a character to whom the events around him appeared to be real, then he would not have ambled away from a location so close to the perpetrators when police arrived and started shooting. This man was aware of the real situation, and in all likelihood he was coordinating between the police team and the “perpetrators”. More proof of this collaboration is going to be forthcoming, so there’s no need to shy away from the fact right from the off.

For their part, the police, who in normal circumstances, would have understood the situation a lot more when they arrived than they claimed they did, acted in court and on the day as if they did not know the situation on the ground. This, they claim, was due to the urgency of the situation, but we soon discover otherwise. The watching crowd had to be organised out of the way – as did the bus.  A cordon was in place long before, and these police were reporting back to superiors – who were also watching via CCTV. Orders had been given to deploy weapons. By all measurements, the responding ARV team should have known what they were getting into. That they pretended they didn’t was essential for creating the myth of the jihadi threat to the British Establishment – it was essential for creating an impression of the aggression of the two Michaels. It was essential that the perpetrators should react to police rather than be dealt with in a pre-emptive fashion for the initial supposed crime. This much we can ascertain by the evidence presented to us around the arrival of the armed police at the scene.

<< Previous – Next >>

[1] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woolwich-trial-live-lee-rigby-2878015

[2] https://www.ipcc.gov.uk/news/ipcc-investigation-concludes-metropolitan-police-firearms-officers-acted-appropriately

[3] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/woolwich-murder-trial-armed-police-officer-feared-for-her-life-as-lee-rigby-accused-charged-towards-her-with-machete-8980167.html

[4] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woolwich-trial-live-lee-rigby-2878015

[5] http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2329648/Police-commander-forced-defend-response-time-desperate-Woolwich-killing-999-calls-claims-armed-officers-14-minutes.html

[6] http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/woolwich-trial-live-lee-rigby-2878015