Thursday 27 July 2017

'In all that chaos and hatred, all I see is my wife looking after me' - London terror attack couple speak of hope for future

Stephen and Cara Lockwood at home recovering after the attack CREDIT: BBC
Stephen and Cara Lockwood at home recovering after the attack CREDIT: BBC
Cara Lockwood. Image: BBC
Stephen Lockwood recovering at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, West London. Credit: BBC
An injured person is assisted on Westminster Bridge after the terror attack. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville
French teenagers Yann and Victor. Credit: BBC
Shehan Hettiarachy, Major Trauma Director at St Mary’s Credit: BBC

Sarah Knapton

In the aftermath of the Westminster Bridge terror attack this year a woman in blue coat was photographed tenderly cradling the head of a man who had been struck by the car of terrorist Khalid Masood.

Crouching over him, her hands covered in blood, she gently tended to his wounds and whispered reassurances as they waited for paramedics to arrive. To one side his shoes lay neatly on the pavement, belying the terrible force that had prised them from his feet. In his unseen hand he clutched a postcard of The Queen.

In the confusion that followed it was unclear whether the pair knew each other, or if a kind-hearted stranger had stopped to help the stricken man.

But this week it emerged that the couple are Cara and Stephen Lockwood who were visiting London on a day-trip from Oxfordshire to celebrate Stephen’s 40th birthday. Just minutes before they had left the London Aquarium where they had been swimming with sharks and were trying to hail a taxi, when Masood began his deadly rampage.

Cara Lockwood. Image: BBC
Cara Lockwood. Image: BBC

Their story was revealed in an astonishing episode of the BBC fly-on-the wall series Hospital, which, by chance was filming at St Mary’s in Paddington, West London, as the terror attack unfolded.

Speaking about the striking image Mr Lockwood said: "This is me laying on the road and Cara is crouched over me, telling me to be ok, and it’s alright. I just see love in it really because in all that chaos and hatred all I can see is my wife looking after me.

"I feel like I am allowed to say we’ve won. We survived and we’re safe."

Mrs Lockwood had been unwilling to use the London Underground because she feared a terror attack, so the couple decided to take a cab, and were struck when Masood mounted the pavement, mowing down pedestrians indiscriminately.

An injured person is assisted on Westminster Bridge after the terror attack. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville
An injured person is assisted on Westminster Bridge after the terror attack. Photo: Reuters/Toby Melville

Although she escaped with bruising and a twisted ankle, Mr Lockwood was left with serious face, chest and leg injuries which required immediate surgery.  Doctors said although no single injury was life-threatening, the cumulative effect could have been deadly.

"We’re quite private people," said Mrs Lockwood. "We don’t go out a lot. This was a special occasion. It’s funny because I don’t like going on the Tube because I am scared that something might happen. And so we decided to get a taxi, obviously we were going to flag a taxi down."

Breaking into tears she added: "What he looked like in the road. He was just covered in blood. It was all over him. Everyone goes through sh*t you know. But not this. Not being ploughed down."

Mr Lockwood initially needed a four hour operation to make urgent repairs to a deep cut to his leg and a broken tibia and fibula, an injury made far worse because the soft tissue had been ripped away from the bone by the force of the collision.

Stephen Lockwood recovering at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, West London. Credit: BBC
Stephen Lockwood recovering at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington, West London. Credit: BBC

Before the advent of cosmetic surgery, which allows skin from other parts of the body to be grafted onto the injury site, doctors would have been forced to amputate.

Following the operation he remained critically ill for several days, being kept under sedation and on life support.

"It’s really hard when you spend so much time with somebody and they’re taken away from you and you suddenly really really alone," said Mrs Lockwood as she anxiously waited for news of her husband.

"And you just want to take hold of him and give him a cuddle and a squeeze and take care of him but then he’s so fragile you just can’t touch him.

Shehan Hettiarachy, Major Trauma Director at St Mary’s Credit: BBC
Shehan Hettiarachy, Major Trauma Director at St Mary’s Credit: BBC

"I want him back home. I want to have a Friday night on the sofa with a pizza and a beer."

Following the attack, 30 people were treated in four London hospitals for injuries and six people were killed, including PC Keith Palmer who attempted to disarm Masood, and the terrorist. The incident at 2.20pm on March 22 lasted just 82 seconds.

Mr Lockwood said: "I can remember making the decision to cross the bridge to get to a taxi on the other side, and that’s pretty much it.

Speaking about his wife he added: "She remembers it and I don’t. So I’ve got the broken body and she’s got the broken mind. But we’re going to deal with it together.

"We’re just a happy little unit really. We live our lives like anybody else, we go to work, come home, watch a bit of TV have a bit of dinner and go to bed.

"This will change us, we’re going to appreciate each other more and for both of us to survive, you take things for granted, you step out of the door every morning and on your merry way you go.”

Surgeons were forced to take a large block of tissue from Mr Lockwood’s healthy leg and graft it onto the damage site in a complex nine hour operation.

"It’s slightly robbing Peter to pay Paul but we’re hoping the robbery is worth the outcome," said surgeon Shehan Hettiarachy, Major Trauma Director at St Mary’s who previously served as a military surgeon in Afghanistan.

"It’s not going to be a smooth journey. He’s going to have rough days and bad days, it’s going to go up and down. He might be walking down the road in six months time and hear a car revving and it may somehow subconsciously flick him back to where he was on the day of the accident.

"Obviously it’s a terrorist attack on your home city. For us we have to push past that and focus on doing the job in hand."

The documentary also followed two French teenagers, 18-year-old Yann and 16-year-old Victor, who were on a school trip from Brittany, and were taking pictures of Big Ben from Westminster Bridge when they were struck by Masood. 

"I remember a bit," Victor said, "A super-fast car on the pavement, then the big shock. I woke up on the ground, my phone in front of me."

Yann added: "It was the worst day of my life. I was scared. Very scared. There was a moment in the ambulance where I felt like I was going. I just wanted to sleep. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if I was going to die. I thought of my mum. It was the worst. I lost lots of blood. I couldn’t see anything, I had blood in my eyes."

Yet amid the horror the documentary revealed hope and even humour. When Yann was reunited with Victor for the first time the younger teen took in his neck brace and shorn head and quipped: "Your new look is working for you."

And when he asked Yann what had become of their gifts from Harrods, the 18-year-old replied: "I have nothing just my underpants. The guy f****d me into nakedness on the pavement."

French teenagers Yann and Victor. Credit: BBC
French teenagers Yann and Victor. Credit: BBC

As he was preparing to leave St Mary’s, Victor added: "I had some excellent days in London, even if in the end it didn’t go quite to plan.

Victor has since recovered from his injuries but Yann continues to receive treatment in France. "This experience has taught me to enjoy life to the max," said Yann.

Dr Hegli Johannsson, clinical director of anaesthesia and theatres at St Mary’s said: "It does test your faith in humanity seeing how horrible people can be to each other.

"But also we see a lot of uplifting things that make you think ‘do you know, actually humanity is alright."

Mr Lockwood is now recovering at home with his wife. On the day of the London Bridge terror attack on June 4, he reposted the image again on Twitter.

"Me and my wife on the Westminster Bridge," he wrote. "Just wanted to let them know we got through it, and so can they."

Hospital is available on BBC iPlayer.

Telegraph.co.uk

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