Woolwich attack: armed police response time concerns

Concerns have been raised about the time it took for armed police to arrive at a suspected terrorist attack that left a man dead in Woolwich, south-east London.

Armed officers reportedly took 20 minutes to arrive at the scene of the incident, prompting one MP to express concerns – although another defended the response time by armed police.

Robert Buckland, a Conservative member of the Commons’ justice select committee, was quoted by The Telegraph website as suggesting it would be “very worrying” if it had taken 20 minutes for the armed police to arrive.

“If there was an unwarranted delay, then that needs to be investigated,” he said, according to the report.

A security source, quoted in the same report, also described the time it took for armed police to respond as “particularly surprising” given that there is a heavily armed police presence at Woolwich Crown Court two-and-a-half miles away.

But Conservative MP Patrick Mercer, defended the police response time. “I think 20 minutes for an armed response unit to respond is pretty good,” he said.

“If people don’t want an armed response unit to take 20 minutes to arrive through pretty heavy London traffic, the answer is to have policemen armed routinely.

“That is something I don’t want to see.”

Speaking to MSN UK News, the former shadow homeland security minister also said: “Criticism of them is ill-considered”.

He said armed officers did not just wait around for such incidents to occur, but were ordinary police officers who were highly trained ready for such events.

Giving an initial outline of events, Metropolitan police commander Simon Letchford said police were called to reports of an assault in John Wilson Street, Woolwich, at approximately 2.20pm where one man was being assaulted by two other men.

“A number of weapons were reportedly being used in the attack, and this included reports of a firearm.

“Officers including local Greenwich officers arrived at the scene. Shortly afterwards firearms officers arrived at the scene,” said the police commander.

“On their arrival at the scene they found a man, who was later pronounced dead. At this early stage, I am unable to provide any further information about the man who has died.

“Two men, who we believe from early reports to have been carrying weapons, were shot by police. They were taken to separate London hospitals. They are receiving treatment for their injuries.

“I can understand that this incident will cause community concerns, and I would like to reiterate that we are investigating what has taken place today.”

He said the Metropolitan police will investigate the circumstances that led a man to lose his life.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), as is routine, will investigate the circumstances in which police fired their weapons, said the senior policeman.

In an update later, the Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said that officers from the counter terrorist unit were leading the investigation into the “shocking and horrific” Woolwich murder, adding that two people have now been arrested.