Colleagues of PC Keith Palmer reveal how concerns were ignored

We KNEW an attack would happen… we even knew where: Two colleagues of murdered PC Keith Palmer give shattering testimony – including a bombshell transcript revealing how their concerns about a terror attack at Parliament were blithely ignored

  • PC Ian Grant was a member of the unit guarding the Palace of Westminster
  • He raised security concerns shared by fellow PCs guarding the Houses of Parliament
  • The Mail has been given an audio recording of PC Grant being berated and threatened by a senior officer 

After he left the British Army, Ian Grant was a frontline police constable for 30 years. During his service he was stabbed three times and received a number of commendations.

In 2006, while on motorcycle duty on the M1, he was run over by a lorry and ‘died’ 14 times on the way to hospital. He survived and returned to duty.

PC Grant ended his police career as a member of the unit guarding the Palace of Westminster. And it was there that he became a ‘security risk’.

Why? Because he had dared to raise security concerns shared by fellow PCs guarding the perimeter of the Houses of Parliament.

The Mail has been given an extraordinary audio recording of PC Grant being berated and threatened by a senior officer who told him he would have his security pass removed and be sent on a punishment posting if he didn’t apologise for speaking out.

PC Ian Grant was a frontline police constable for 30 years and raised security concerns by fellow PCs guarding the perimeter of the Houses of Parliament

PC Sam Kelly — not his real name — was on duty at the Palace of Westminster on March 22, 2017, when his unarmed colleague Keith Palmer was stabbed to death at the Carriage Gates by Islamist terrorist Khalid Masood.

Seconds earlier the knifeman had killed four pedestrians and injured dozens of others by ramming them with his hired car on Westminster Bridge.

PC Kelly’s abiding memory of that terrible day was seeing — as hundreds fled — an unarmed, middle-aged, policewoman colleague running at full pelt towards the attack to try to save PC Palmer.

Meanwhile, Acting Commissioner Sir Craig Mackey remained sitting in his car only yards from the assault, watching as his constable was murdered.

Sir Craig’s excuse was that he was ill-equipped to intervene.

Earlier this month, in the first part of this Mail investigation, we revealed a number of the security failings at the Palace of Westminster which were ignored by senior officers and civilian staff before PC Palmer’s horrific murder.

It emerged last month that PC Palmer’s widow Michelle Palmer has launched a legal action against the Metropolitan Police, for placing her husband — who won a posthumous George Medal for bravery — at unnecessary risk.

At the conclusion of the inquest into his death, Chief Coroner Mark Lucraft QC spoke of the ‘shortcomings in the security system’ which may have contributed towards his murder.

PC Keith Palmer was killed and the suspect was shot dead by police during the attack at Westminster on March 22, 2017 

Today police officer Grant and police officer Kelly, who were both members of the command guarding the Palace of Westminster, have come forward to give the Mail devastating testimony which will surely underpin Mr Lucraft’s findings and Mrs Palmer’s case.

‘We knew (a tragedy) was going to happen and the exact location where it would happen,’ says Ian Grant. ‘The Carriage Gates were the weakest point. It was just a question of when.’

Sam Kelly agrees. ‘All the indicators suggested a terror attack on Parliament was coming,’ he says.

‘If you are facing a violent threat, the best thing to do is increase the strength of your defences and make sure everyone can see that, as a deterrent effect.

It emerged last month that Michelle Palmer, the widow of PC Palmer (pictured) has launched a legal action against the Metropolitan Police, for placing her husband at unnecessary risk

‘What was happening at Westminster was the opposite. The police presence was made to lower its profile; it had also been physically reduced. Senior management knew best, better than the guys on the ground. We were told everything had been assessed way above our pay grade; we didn’t understand the bigger strategic picture and we should just shut up.’

Yet it was the ‘foot soldiers’, he says, who were blamed after the Westminster Bridge attack. ‘I can think of at least two inspectors, probably a dozen sergeants and even more PCs who were squeezed out. We were made to feel it was our fault.’

He has hard words for several senior officers including Sir Craig Mackey and the current Commissioner Cressida Dick.

‘(Mackey) is not fit to be called a police officer in my book,’ he says. ‘Our job isn’t to head in the opposite direction when there is a live threat.

‘I saw one of my colleagues, a mother of four in her late 40s. She wasn’t the fleetest of foot but she did the right thing.

‘She didn’t think about running away to save her own skin. Her instinct was to fight. She went towards where the blood was being shed.’

The anecdote brings a catch to his voice and he admits it still makes the hair stand up on the back of his neck and a tear come to his eye. ‘She stood for everything that made me proud to be a police officer,’ he says.

Of Commissioner Dick, he says: ‘The day after the attack she made a morale-boosting visit and listened to us. What happened next? Nothing.’

Kelly had first raised concerns as long ago as 2011 when he was in the Diplomatic Protection Group. He felt, as did colleagues, that armed officers were being positioned too far away from the Carriage Gates.

‘In an ideal world you would have had two armed officers outside the gates and two inside.

‘If you couldn’t have that, then keep the two you did have on the perimeter. Don’t move them back inside, out the way, though.’

He adds: ‘Yet that is exactly what they did.

Khalid Masood was shot dead by police after he drove a rental car into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge before fatally stabbing PC Palmer

‘It probably saved the equivalent of paying two men per day on time and a half. In return, the armed police lost line of sight of the gates and without that they are not much use.

‘It was disgraceful. As what happened (to PC Palmer) showed.’

On the day PC Palmer was murdered, Sam Kelly had discussed swapping positions with him on the rota. But, at the last minute, Palmer changed his mind.

‘He told me, “Nah, don’t fancy it, mate”. It was just banter but you can’t help thinking about the “what ifs”. I didn’t know Keith that well personally but I did professionally. He was a very decent guy. He was nobody’s fool but he was taken for one by the system.’

At his guard post Kelly heard what he thought were shots being fired and then a chilling message came through on the radio.

It was from a police guard on the Carriage Gates; an ex-Army man who had seen action in Iraq.

K ELLY recalls: ‘He was 6 ft 3 in, a big, tough guy, but his voice was breaking with fear and panic.

‘He shouted something about them being under attack and they needed armed support immediately.

‘There was an armed response car parked opposite us, outside Westminster Abbey and we waved frantically at it and pointed in the direction of the (Carriage) Gates.

‘But they just sat and stared at us.

‘Later, it turned out they were working on a different radio frequency.’

Kelly resented the ‘culture of arrogance and indifference’ towards the junior officers on guard.

PC Ian Grant said: ‘We knew (a tragedy) was going to happen and the exact location where it would happen’

‘There was a strong feeling within the Palace that scary armed guards should not be standing at the gates. It was not the view they wanted to give the world. Many of the MPs and Lords we were there to protect did everything they could to make life difficult for us — like not openly wearing their passes.

‘On one occasion we let in an MP who wasn’t showing his pass, because we recognised him. Then he complained we hadn’t challenged him.

‘So we started challenging everyone and, of course, that wasn’t right either. It was a horrible, petty war with people who thought we weren’t worthy of passing the time of day with.

‘There was always niggle. Some of the most famous faces were the most difficult.

‘You would think in the wake of Keith’s death there would be some humility, some sobering reflection. Instead everyone blamed everyone but themselves. And they drove a lot of us out.’ Within a year he had left the service, totally demoralised by what had happened.

It was in the spring of 2014 that PC Grant, who had been based at the Palace of Westminster for almost two years, sent an email to a number of senior officers and civilian security personnel.

It expressed the growing concerns among junior officers guarding the perimeter about proposed cuts in numbers of both armed and unarmed constables and guard posts. Officers on the ground were already grotesquely overstretched and often having to work double shifts.

Grant was particularly concerned about the prospect of reducing the number of officers at the St Stephen’s posts, where visitors and MPs on foot enter the Palace complex. Guards would no longer have ‘line of sight’ contact with each other which would hamper any response to an emergency.

His email caused one senior officer apoplexy — but not because of the problems he flagged up. Instead, Grant was summoned by him for a dressing down.

Ambulance crews tend to injured victims on Westminster Bridge and in Parliament Square

Grant recorded the exchange. The Mail has heard the recording and we reproduce some of the verbatim dialogue here. In any context — be it a police force or a private business — you might wonder at the senior officer’s hectoring approach and the threats that he makes.

He had refused to wait until a Police Federation representative was available to sit in with Grant who had already been warned by him of possible disciplinary action. Then he let rip.

Senior Officer: ‘Come in, have a seat, please. Never speak to me like that again.’

PC: ‘Sir, I was respectful at all times.’

SO: ‘No you weren’t. You were actually downright disrespectful.’

PC: ‘By demanding a Fed rep, Sir?’

SO: ‘Yes, by making demands.’

PC: ‘But . . . ’

SO: ‘Don’t argue, mate, because this will go badly for you. You need to listen.’

PC: ‘Well I think I’m being bullied here, Sir.’

SO: ‘…Yesterday as I was going through various emails, catching up with the world, I find an email from yourself to (a senior member of the Palace’s civilian security team) . . . in which you raise concerns about the St Stephen’s entrance.’

PC: ‘Correct, Sir.’

SO: ‘That’s fine . . . but what is not fine . . . is sending an email that in the last sentence is sarcastic. And I quote: “It seems to be a case of when something is working let’s amend it again.”

‘Well, let me tell you this, Mr Grant; if you think the security operation at St Stephen’s is working at the moment you are very, very wrong. What you’re also very, very, wrong in doing is being sarcastic to a member of the senior leadership team and what you are even more wrong in doing is then copying it to all the constables on the command.’

The senior officer demands that Grant sends an email apology.

SO: ‘If you don’t do that then I have no confidence in you here. You have no place on this Operational Command Unit. Now the Met Police does not give me systems and processes to remove you just like that, sadly. . .

‘However, I have discussed the matter with the Serjeant-at-Arms Office (the civilian security authority at the Palace) about what I (could) do if I didn’t have confidence in people here. And they (said they) would remove your security pass.

‘Without the security pass you can’t work here and you will spend (your last) 140 days in this police service somewhere where you don’t want to be. The choice is yours PC Grant.’ Grant then tries to explain the context of his email.

PC: ‘Sir, when I sent that email, I sent it with the concerns of other officers who were standing over me when I sent it. It was the concerns of the other officers as well.’

He apologises if there had been a misunderstanding and says he has no disrespect for rank.

But the senior office becomes angry again.

SO: ‘You come here, try and lord it over me, tell me what I am and what I am not doing. Tell me I am bullying you and, until you stepped through the door, I didn’t know who you were. At the moment, you are a risk to me in running this operation smoothly.’

PC: ‘I’d like to know how I am a risk, Sir? When I have always done my duty.’

SO: ‘You are a risk because you are trying to undermine my security plan.’

PC: ‘I questioned something, Sir. The reasoning behind it.’

SO: ‘. . . So you think what was at St Stephen’s earlier this week was working? That says to me you don’t understand the security plan.’

PC: ‘Because we’re not told anything, Sir. As PCs that are doing it, we are not told anything.’

SO: ‘You to me are a risk around my security plan because you are in denial about problems that exist and our right to put those things correct.’

PC: ‘I have always done what I was told to do. I would like to know how I am a risk, Sir?’

SO: ‘If you are naive enough to send an arsey email . . . and copy it to all the constables, that in my book makes you a significant risk. It makes you a risk of disaffecting other people, makes you a risk of spreading misinformation, it makes you a risk to good order and discipline, it makes you a risk on several levels.

‘The choice is yours, buddy. You can leave here now and we will have that written apology by ten o’clock . . . or we can play it the difficult way. It matters not to me. Sharpen up, stop being foolish, stop displaying bad attitude, just crack on and do your job . . . OK?’

PC: ‘Yes, Sir.’

Grant was not concerned about being posted to inner-city Hackney — which is what, he says, the senior officer threatened to do — but he did email an apology for giving offence.

At the same time, he made a formal complaint to the Met about the way the senior officer had treated him. But it was not resolved by the time he retired.

‘He never explained what was “going wrong” at St Stephen’s or why it had to be changed,’ Grant says. ‘He just focused on what I thought was an innocuous turn of phrase in the last line of my email. None of our serious security concerns were addressed.’

Three years later, PC Keith Palmer paid the price.

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