Armed police are in revolt against their bosses over the murder of PC Keith Palmer in the Westminster terror attack.
Marksmen believe they have been ‘hung out to dry’ – accused of being in the wrong place when Khalid Masood stabbed the officer.
Police chiefs launched a secret misconduct investigation into the two marksmen who were on duty at Parliament at the time. Constables Lee Ashby and Nicholas Sanders were accused of having a ‘misjudged and misguided interpretation’ of their roles.
But they were never asked to give an account of their actions on the day and the misconduct investigation was quietly shelved. A police source said: ‘It got nowhere and just caused a lot of ill feeling – those involved knew they had done nothing wrong.
Last picture of Metropolitan Police constable Keith Palmer, 48, who was stabbed to death
‘Obviously tensions were very high after the murder and it was pretty ugly to think someone thought Keith’s colleagues could be made to carry the can.’
In the aftermath of the vehicle atrocity, junior officers said they were bullied by their superiors and one quit to ‘save his sanity’.
Some have vented their fury on Facebook even though it is rare for officers to directly criticise bosses on social media because they appreciate the challenges of policing and are wary about tarnishing their own force.
Low morale among police at Westminster in the aftermath of the attack in March last year led to unarmed officers refusing to speak to colleagues in the firearms unit.
The inquest into the Westminster victims was told that Metropolitan Police chiefs passed the buck by investigating the actions of constables Ashby and Sanders. Susannah Stevens, who represents Mr Palmer’s parents and siblings, said ‘police constables are being hung out to dry’ to protect senior officers.
Emergency services at the scene outside the Palace of Westminster, London, where Pc Keith Palmer was fatally stabbed by Khalid Masood
Don’t dodge our questions, says family
Keith Palmer’s sisters have accused police chiefs of undermining the inquest.
Angela Clark and Michelle Palmer also say they have been made to feel they are worth less than Khalid Masood, the terrorist who murdered the unarmed constable.
They said they feel ‘battered and undervalued’ because their questions about weakness in parliamentary security have been ignored.
The pair accused Scotland Yard chiefs of ‘scapegoating’ junior officers over apparent security failures during the attack by Masood in March last year. ‘We put our faith in this system, that we would get answers. And we’re now utterly demoralised, our faith is gone,’ Mrs Clark, 52, told The Times.
Miss Palmer, 46, said: ‘Keith gave his life and we are left with no answers. Eighteen months on we were hoping for some closure, but we’re not going to have that. We feel like we come below Khalid Masood. We are not valued, not wanted, we feel like we are on trial.’
Scotland Yard chiefs are expected to be heavily criticised over the affair when the Old Bailey inquest ends this week. A colleague of Mr Palmer last week accused a senior officer responsible for security at Parliament of having ‘blood on his hands’.
Mr Ashby and Mr Sanders insist they were told by bosses to carry out roving patrols in the grounds of Parliament and that they should prioritise the members’ entrance. This left the carriage gates, where unarmed Mr Palmer was stationed, vulnerable to attack.
Met chiefs insist the subsequent investigation was secret to avoid the appearance of a witch-hunt, which its critics say it was.
The force’s department of professional standards, which carried it out, did not discipline the officers. Mr Ashby and Mr Sanders say they have never been told by bosses that their patrol route on the day of the attack was wrong.
‘No misconduct hearing took place in the end because it was quashed – by who, it is not clear,’ another police source said.
‘One of the officers had taken a photograph of exactly what he had been told to do. There is not much arguing with that.’
At least four colleagues of Mr Palmer have accused senior officers of failing to appreciate the vulnerability of carriage gates.
Mr Ashby told the inquest it was impossible to cover all the gates and he admitted the system left unarmed officers unprotected ‘more often than not’.
Dominic Adamson, who is representing Mr Palmer’s widow Michelle, said: ‘The security measures in the Palace of Westminster which contains the Prime Minister and members of cabinet were so lax that the relevant instructions were not being performed or acted upon.
‘The system of security completely failed to protect PC Palmer on that day.’
One colleague of Mr Palmer described the security at Parliament as a ‘colossal cock-up’. Another said top officers should ‘hang their heads in shame’.
In just 82 seconds, Masood used a car to knock down and kill Kurt Cochran, 54, Leslie Rhodes, 75, Aysha Frade, 44, and Andreea Cristea, 31, on Westminster Bridge before stabbing Mr Palmer, 48.
Dozens more were injured. Masood was shot dead by a plain-clothes officer.