Saturday 18 November 2017

Thousands attend funeral of hero police officer Keith Palmer who died in Westminster attack

Police line the route as the coffin of Pc Keith Palmer leaves Southwark Cathedral in London after his funeral service
Police line the route as the coffin of Pc Keith Palmer leaves Southwark Cathedral in London after his funeral service
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Murdered Pc Keith Palmer has been hailed at his funeral as a "hero" whose "blue lamp will shine bright forever".

The 48-year-old father and husband was stabbed to death by Khalid Masood as he carried out his duties on the cobbled forecourt of the Palace of Westminster.

Around 50 members of Pc Palmer's family, including his wife, child, mother and father, brother and sisters, attended his funeral service at Southwark Cathedral, central London, along with Home Secretary Amber Rudd, mayor of London Sadiq Khan and the manager and captain of his beloved Charlton Athletic FC, Karl Robinson and Johnnie Jackson.

As many as 5,000 officers from the Metropolitan Police and other forces, including a delegation from the New York Police Department, joined the service or lined the cortege route as members of the public looked on.

Thousands more officers and staff at police stations across the country marked two minutes' silence at 2pm.

In a eulogy reaching nearly 1,500 words, his friend and colleague Chief Inspector Neil Sawyer told the cathedral's congregation: "During Keith's policing service he met and worked alongside many officers and left a positive impression on all. And we will all miss him greatly.

Police Constable Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death by terrorist Khalid Masood at the British Parliament. Photo: PA
Police Constable Keith Palmer, who was stabbed to death by terrorist Khalid Masood at the British Parliament. Photo: PA

"I know this because over the last couple of weeks so many of these colleagues and friends have told me as much.

"I will close with these thoughts from myself, Keith's colleagues and friends - his spirit will never leave us and he will remain an inspiration to us all. Keith's blue lamp will shine bright forever. And on behalf of us all we say thank you - Keith made a difference and we will not forget."

The reading included anecdotes from Pc Palmer's 15-year policing career, including that as a Territorial Support Group officer he made 150 arrests in 2015 alone.

Mr Sawyer said: " Keith was a Depeche Mode fan and would often sing his favourite song at work, I Just Can't Get Enough, which was relevant to his arrest rate."

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick, the first female head of Scotland Yard in its 188-year history, attended the full force funeral in her first public engagement in her new role.

Police officers line the street as the coffin of PC Keith Palmer is transported to his funeral
Police officers line the street as the coffin of PC Keith Palmer is transported to his funeral

She read the WH Auden poem Funeral Blues, which begins "Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone", and asks for "the traffic police men to wear black cotton gloves" in mourning of a loved one.

Ms Dick told Sky News: "It was a chosen by the family - it was a poem they wanted to have read and for me it was an enormous privilege to be asked to read it. It's a very powerful poem."

She praised the turnout from police and members of the public, who lined the barriers along the route hours before the funeral began.

"I think the events at Westminster have appalled the whole nation, that's quite clear," Ms Dick said.

"Since then I know, Met colleagues and colleagues from all around the country have been literally overwhelmed by the strength of feeling from members of the public."

Before the service, the Queen gave permission for Pc Palmer's body to rest in Westminster's Chapel of St Mary Undercroft, an honour normally reserved for senior figures.

Pc Palmer's funeral cortege, including his hearse topped with a floral tribute reading "No 1 Daddy", left the palace through the Carriage Gates he died defending.

Pall bearers carry the coffin of Pc Keith Palmer into Southwark Cathedral in London
Pall bearers carry the coffin of Pc Keith Palmer into Southwark Cathedral in London

His coffin travelled slowly amid silence along 2.6 miles of the capital's usually bustling streets, avoiding the scene of the March 22 atrocity on Westminster Bridge on its journey to the cathedral.

Some members of the public and police shed tears as the procession went past, while members of Pc Palmer's family and friends followed the hearse in black cars at the rear.

The procession was led by the Metropolitan Police Colour Party and a Black Escort of mounted officers before the coffin was carried into the cathedral by colleagues and friends of Pc Palmer.

Two National Police Air Service helicopters performed a flypast and aerial salute.

Read More: Body of hero police officer Keith Palmer will rest in Palace of Westminster ahead of funeral

Screens and PA systems were erected for members of the public outside to watch and listen to the service and o fficers bowed their heads as the Last Post sounded from the cathedral shortly after a recital of the Lord's Prayer.

The coffin of PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the recent Westminster attack, is driven away after his funeral
The coffin of PC Keith Palmer, who was killed in the recent Westminster attack, is driven away after his funeral

A few moments' silence then followed a rendition of God Save The Queen, as on-duty officers, medical staff and members of the public stood still in respect for Pc Palmer.

At the end of the service, his coffin was again placed inside the hearse, which also had floral tributes reading "husband", "uncle", "Keith" and "son", and driven away to a private cremation for family and friends.

Bishop of Southwark Christopher Chessun, who read the commendation and farewell, said the service was "very moving" because of the amount of support shown on London's streets and across the country.

He said: "One of the most important things is that not everything can be put into words and words alone are not adequate in the context of friends and loved ones coming to terms with grief.

"But what can be done is to be there alongside them, and to pray for them."

Met Police Federation chairman Ken Marsh, who attended the service, said Pc Palmer had been a "true hero" and hoped his actions would demonstrate to the public the risk that officers take on a daily basis.

He said: "I think the public have absolutely grasped the fact he is a hero, and quite right because the public rightly run away from danger, but Keith Palmer ran towards it.

"I can't stand there and say it won't happen again, but I hope this shows the public what lengths officers go to on a daily basis on their behalf."

Mr Marsh said the service to mark Mr Palmer's death had been "very moving and poignant" and said it was obvious everyone who knew him had spoken "from the heart".

A young girl lights a candle during a candlelit vigil at Trafalgar Square. Photo: GETTY
A young girl lights a candle during a candlelit vigil at Trafalgar Square. Photo: GETTY

Read More: Westminster attack victim dies in hospital

John Bishop, 70, and Arthur Fowler, 83, who acted as standard bearers in the funeral procession for two branches of the Royal Artillery Association, said the service had been particularly emotional.

Mr Fowler said: "It's an honour to be there, but it's a sad honour. "

Earlier, Pc Palmer's name was added to the roll of honour and remembrance at a ceremony at the National Police Memorial on The Mall, in central London, complete with a guard of honour.

Four other innocent people were killed and dozens of others injured in the 82-second atrocity in Westminster on Wednesday March 22, which ended with Masood, 52, being shot dead.

Andreea Cristea, 31, Leslie Rhodes, 75, Kurt Cochran, 54, and Aysha Frade, 44, died after he ploughed into pedestrians on Westminster Bridge.

Speaking after the funeral, Commissioner Cressida Dick said: "He was genuinely the friendly face of British policing and in this horrible, horribly sad time, I think all of us in policing hope that today's tribute to him gives some sort of comfort to his family, who we can't possibly imagine what they have been going through. But we're incredibly proud of him and we know they are too. All are hearts are with them.

"The events at Westminster appalled the whole nation and since then, I know Met colleagues and colleagues from all around the country have been overwhelmed by the strength of feeling from members of the public.

"People offering kindness, support, friendship; wanting to say to their police officers how much they respect what they do. And how proud they are of what Keith did and what sort of person he was.

"Today it is just wonderful to see the numbers that have turned out. I know it means a very great deal to my colleagues in the Metropolitan Police Service but also to colleagues throughout policing.

"In this terrible, terribly sad business, if we can take some positives forward, then that's something."

Kurt Cochran, Keith Palmer and Aysha Frade - The victims of the London terror attack
Kurt Cochran, Keith Palmer and Aysha Frade - The victims of the London terror attack

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