Inquest hears that first victim, Kurt Cochran, had arrived in UK with his wife that morning
The first victim of the Westminster terrorism attack had been in London for only two and a half hours before he was knocked down and killed, an inquest has heard.
Kurt Cochran and his wife, Melissa, were visiting London from the US as part of a tour around Europe when Khalid Masood swerved his car off the road and drove at them on 22 March 2017.
Cochran, 54, had pushed his wife to safety but died at the scene as Big Ben struck 3pm.
He was one of five people killed by Masood, who carried out a car and knife attack on Westminster Bridge and the Palace of Westminster last year.
Melissa Cochran was badly injured and spent three and a half weeks in the hospital.
She told the inquest at the Old Bailey that she was almost at the end of the bridge and planning on walking down the steps to the embankment when she heard the sound of the car revving.
She recalled seeing the front of the vehicle, and the next thing she remembered was being on the ground. “It was very sudden,” she said.
“We were just spending the entire day seeing everything we could see. We had one day in London so we were cramming everything in we could. We had two and a half hours in London before the attack.”
Gareth Patterson QC, for three of the victims, asked: “Kurt’s right arm went out: do you remember when he reached across and then pushed you out of the way?”
Melissa Cochran said she had no memory of it, but that it was typical of her husband.
Over the course of 82 seconds Masood knocked down Kurt Cochran, Leslie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and Andreea Cristea, 31, before fatally stabbing PC Keith Palmer at the gates to the Palace of Westminster.
The Old Bailey has heard the Hyundai Tucson was driven at an average speed of 31mph on the bridge. Masood targeted pedestrians on the pavement before crashing the vehicle into railings.
The attack ended when he was shot dead by a plainclothes officer who had rushed to the scene.
Kylie Smith, a teacher who was on a school trip, told the inquest she saw Masood’s car “deliberately targeting” pedestrians.
Smith was standing with a group of students and a colleague on steps on the north side of the bridge. She said she heard the engine revving and saw a 4×4 car mount the pavement and hit members of the public. “It was a very clear, deliberate act,” she said. “Nobody really had a chance.”
Smith had spotted the Cochrans walking hand in hand earlier. During the attack she saw Kurt Cochran push his wife out of the way. Smith was in tears when she described what happened.
Cochran was struck by the car, propelling him over the bridge and on to the pavement below.
Another witness, Neil Hulbert, who was in London with his nephew on a trip to visit the London Eye, attended to Cochran. They were on the Albert Embankment on the south bank of the Thames opposite the Houses of Parliament when Hulbert saw Cochran fall “head first” on to the pavement.
He tried to talk to Cochran but there was no response, he said. Though Cochran was breathing, it became “very laboured” by the time the paramedics arrived.
Another witness, Tanya Henshaw, a clinical nurse at St Thomas’ hospital, assisted with Cochran’s care once the paramedics arrived. “He wasn’t conscious. There was a lot of blood. He was obviously was very badly injured,” she told the inquest. It was very obvious to all of us that Kurt wasn’t going to survive.”
The inquest heard that the second victim of the attack, 75-year-old Leslie Rhodes, was struck by a car and dragged along for 30 metres underneath the vehicle.
Graphic CCTV footage showed Rhodes had just looked over his right shoulder before he was hit by the car. Dr Gareth Lloyd, a hospital registrar, was walking on the bridge when he saw Rhodes being struck by the vehicle. He told the inquest that the car was “travelling at some speed” and was being driven “erratically”.
After Rhodes was hit, Lloyd crossed the road and approached him. “He made no attempt to move once he landed on the ground,” he added. Rhodes was laying on his side when Lloyd reached him. He told the court he saw significant injuries to Rhodes and he decided to move him so he was laying flat on his back. Rhodes later died in hospital.
The inquest was told that Rhodes was a British citizen and a retired window cleaner. He lived in Clapham, London, for about 30 years. He was in the area because he had an appointment at St Thomas’ hospital.
The inquest into the attack, which opened on Monday, is expected to last until 17 October.