Like the tweet and corporate-media coverage of Michael Atley presented the key to understanding when the shootout actually took place, it is also a combination of the same that gives a vital piece of information regarding the final act – the arrival of the paramedics, and especially the air ambulance. For some reason, when one looks at the photographs that caught the occasion, one gets the idea that the Air Ambulance was something that occurred a quite a long time after the shootout – after the culprits had been readied for the evacuation (one went in the helicopter, another by road, in fact), and by the time the police had been able to cordon off all the roads and empty them of traffic. However, the Air Ambulance actually bookended the incident very snugly indeed – and if the police were able to clear a landing area in super-quick time, then there is a good explanation for that, as we will discover.
The earliest Twitter report of the Air Ambulance that the author can discover is one that seems to reinforce the official narrative of the armed response happening at 2:34pm. At 2:39pm, a twitter operative @NigelFletcher, tweeted this:
The Air Ambulance appears to be landing in Woolwich – it’s just circled over the town Centre twice.
We can perhaps gather that Fletcher made this tweet not understanding what the incident was the helicopter would be attending. The choice of language is very suggestive of this. Fletcher assumes the helicopter is landing in Woolwich because of how it has been circling. Fletcher noticed this symptom of the helicopter’s coming into land, and made the connection through that. He didn’t cite what he thought the cause could be, and arguably if he had known about the incident he would have been more certain in his language (e.g. The Air Ambulance preparing to land in Woolwich in response to the incident in Artillery Place). If Nigel Fletcher didn’t know about an incident in Woolwich at 2:39pm, then he would have been surprised to see the Air Ambulance, and indeed his tweet has that tone. Furthermore, as we have now discovered, if he didn’t know about an incident, then there would be good reason – the fireworks had not yet started. When Fletcher saw the Air Ambulance it was not on scene to land in the junction and take either Adebowale and Adebolajo away to hospital (as if on demand) – what it was doing instead was what Daniel Fletcher had done; it was moving to a staging area.
The following is an eye witness account collected by some of the corporate-media on the day:
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.
Terror in Woolwich: One woman was crying – ‘They killed him. They killed him’; Sanchez Manning; 22 May 2013.
The 16:17 update on the BBC News’ “As it happened – Woolwich attack” live updates webpage published on 22nd May had this to say:
Local primary school head teacher David Dixon tells the BBC News Channel he saw a body in the road and “there were gun shots after that”.
He instructed staff to lock all the gates of his school and an air ambulance landed in the playground.
As it happened – Woolwich attack; Alex Morrison et al; 22 May 2013.
This update indicates that an interview conducted by the BBC with David Dixon had happened before 16:17. The following is a transcript of most of it:
We got word of an incident just at the end of our road, so I went out to find out the nature of if, of course there was lots of police and emergency vehicles etc – and saw a body lying in the road – went immediately back to school and got us to lock all the gates – to go into lockdown – made sure the children were inside so that they were as safe as possible, and then kept on liaising with police to ascertain what we needed to do next in terms of letting parents know and how we were able then to get the children out of school because it was towards the end of the afternoon when they normally leave school anyway.
When asked if he could see a body during his reconnoitre:
Yes that’s right. All the traffic had stopped – there were gun shots after that, so I’m not sure about the situation after that, but all I would have needed to know was that there was an emergency and we needed to go into our emergency procedures to make sure the children were as safe as possible and as far as I was concerned that was my main priority. So we got all the staff to get the children in – because some where outside doing activities – locked all the gates and then I and some of my other senior staff liaised with police to find out what we needed to do after that.
On being asked about the level of police activity during his reconnoitre:
Yes, there was a lot of police activity, and there was the Air Ambulance landed in the play ground, and we helped them locate where they needed to go.
Woolwich incident: Head teacher on school ‘lock down’; Audio interview; 22 May 2013.
It seems pretty clear, then, that the Air Ambulance landed at first in the school grounds. Please also notice that police already seemed to be in the area in noticeably large numbers when Dixon first made his enquiries (prompted by the teachers returning from the library field trip?).
The Air Ambulance taking off and landing again may have been captured in this combination of Tweets. The first is a follow up by Nigel Fletcher at 3.11pm:
The air ambulance has just taken off again. #Woolwich
Then, at 3.19pm, Woolwich Community, or @WoolwichCom reported that:
Air Ambulance on the ground in Woolwich town center (sic). Streets are completely cordoned off. Waiting for officials… http://fb.me/23UKF9txp
Reinforcing the possibility that the helicopter was indeed landing around and after the quarter past the hour mark, The Newsshopper site’s live update service had an entry at 3.28pm. There were two pictures of the Air Ambulance touching down in the junction. One was attributed to someone called @Yusuf_Kayalar on Twitter. This tweet, when one goes looking for it, has been deleted. However, one can see the usual pattern of all the interested media outlets coming in to ask to use the images (again with the replies deleted). The actual picture in question was retweeted by @BreakingNews.ie at 5.26pm (see Fig. 238). The other image was seemingly a still from a video that later was posted to YouTube by a Gary Dee under the title “Air Ambulance at Woolwich murder, eyewitness, exclusive unseen footage murderer on stretcher”. The former was taken from John Wilson Street North looking south. The latter was taken from Wellington Place looking into Artillery Place, and in fact was the image that the Woolwich Community tweet linked to on Facebook (see Fig. 259). This very much confirms it – after Nigel Fletcher had seen it up in the air again before 3:11pm, the helicopter had touched back down before 3:19pm.
At 4.07pm, Newsshopper had an update which told of the official story that London Air Ambulance was releasing:
A London Air Ambulance spokeswoman said: “We were called today at 2.20pm. to reports of an incident at John Wilson Street, SE18.
“We sent two responders in cars, three ambulance crews, two duty officers and London Air Ambulance to the scene.
“We still have staff on scene.”
Woolwich terrorist attack as it happened: Soldier dead and two suspects injured; Staff Writer; 22 May 2013 (updated 06 June 2013).
Notice, this statement must have been made before or close to after the top of the hour for it to have had time to filter through to media – perhaps it strikes us a bit odd that the crews are still on site more than 1 and a half hours later. Because it is very likely completely true that the crews were sent out at 2.20pm, or thereabouts – it’s just that the Air Ambulance’s unsuspecting crew (presumably) flew to the school grounds before the police released them to the bottom of Artillery Place. Daniel Middleton, one of those duty officers in his own vehicle, was caught on camera driving to the place from whence he would later pounce – he wasn’t meant to respond for Lee Rigby, he was there for the shootout. Chances are that he was unsuspecting too. Paramedics can only treat people on a scene after police give the go ahead – if he arrived too early for the cordon and accidently drove straight through the stage, he wouldn’t have thought it odd that this was going on and at the same time he would have to wait somewhere else.
When we watch the Mirror footage, the Air Ambulance can be clearly heard shortly after the armed intervention, and when the arrests were taking place. The information we have gleaned means that this was all taking place at around 3:11pm – this is when Nigel Fletcher saw the Air Ambulance in the air once again. Undoubtedly, the late shootout is the reason why the ambulance crews were still on site approaching 4-o-clock – at that stage they had only been allowed into ground zero for less than 40 minutes. Otherwise, if the shootout had happened at 2:34pm as the official story has it, then the ambulance crews would have somehow been on site for something approaching one and a half hours by 4-0-clock – all that time just to load Adebowale and Adebolajo into some vehicles. Of course, because the police had been managing the emptying of the roads since half-past two, they could quickly be decorated with police line tape, and the Air Ambulance could land very immediately on the heels of the shootout. If the impression was given that the Air Ambulance arrived later because it was arriving into an empty streetscape, then it was because the streetscape was emptied sooner after the incident that we might have been able to imagine.
At 4:43pm on the Newsshopper live, the following report appeared:
A London Air Ambulance spokeswoman said: “Our doctors and paramedics attended and treated patients – one was airlifted, one was transferred by land ambulance.”
Woolwich terrorist attack as it happened: Soldier dead and two suspects injured; Staff Writer; 22 June 2013 [updated 06 June 2013!]
In that case, we know that by 4.43pm, the incident was all done and dusted. At this stage, the forensics boys would be allowed on the deserted crime scene, and the TV cameras could fly over head getting shots for the 6-o-clock news. Well, as it turns out, not quite.