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Crazed animals... how news of the savage Woolwich attack exploded on Twitter
- Witnesses sent dozens of messages describing unstoppable carnage
- Killer casually held 'media' interviews with random members of public
- Scotland Yard left mute and impotently said 'assault' had taken place
PUBLISHED:19:35 EST, 22 May 2013| UPDATED:03:32 EST, 23 May 2013
It began with a few simple messages about an apparently mundane road crash near a primary school.
But within minutes the full bloody horror of the Woolwich terror attack was unfolding live on the internet.
Stunned witnesses sent dozens of messages describing graphically the unstoppable carnage taking place before their eyes.
Two assailants rammed their car into an off-duty soldier from the barracks nearby before stabbing and slashing him to death with knives and cleavers, shouting ‘Allah Akbar’ – God is Great – the battle-cry of Muslim jihadists around the world.
As they dragged their victim in the street, dozens of passers-by took photographs and videos.
Then, in an unspeakably chilling act, one of the killers casually held ‘media’ interviews with random members of the public as he waited calmly for armed police to arrive.
Standing with bloody hands and two large knives, the man looked into the camera and said: ‘You people will never be safe.’
Moments later the killers were gunned down by police. Witnesses said they ran towards a markswoman waving knives and a ‘rusty’ revolver.
The remarkable accounts are the result of 21st century mobile phone technology which turns everyone into citizen journalists.
Most witnesses sent messages via the Twitter social networking site and Facebook, while others contributed to internet forums and newspaper websites.
Scotland Yard was left mute, impotently saying that an ‘assault’ had taken place in Woolwich and they were investigating.
Heroic: Brave women attempt to help and comfort the victim close to the car that apparently struck him
Only women': The attackers were said to have allowed women to approach the body after the soldier was killed
Aftermath: The dead soldier, circled left, and one of the shot terrorists, right, in Woolwich, south-east London
The drama began when the two attackers smashed into their victim as he walked in John Wilson Street, a stone’s throw from Woolwich Barracks.
Luke Huseyin, 32, who lives in a flat overlooking the scene, said he initially thought the driver had lost control.
'I was at home and heard a big bang. I looked out of the window and saw a car had crashed. It was a blue Vauxhall'
Luke Huseyin, 32, witness
‘I was at home and heard a big bang,’ he said. ‘I looked out of the window and saw a car had crashed. It was a blue Vauxhall.’
His thoughts were echoed by others. One said: ‘There were two guys on the floor, we thought they’d been involved in a crash of some sort.’
In the confusion, some thought that the two men crouched over their victim, a white man in a Help For Heroes T-shirt, were trying to help him. But they quickly realised they were intent on murder.
Mr Huseyin said: ‘Two black guys got out of the car dragging a white guy across the road towards the wall. One of the guys had a knife that looked about a foot long and a machete. The other bloke had a gun.
‘They started slashing him up with the knife and hitting him in the stomach with the machete. I don’t think it took long before he was dead.
'There were people passing by who were screaming and running away. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’m still really shaken up.’
Another witness said: ‘My partner in the car let out an almighty scream, we saw clearly two knives.
SOLDIER WAS WEARING A HELP FOR HEROES HOODIE WHEN HE WAS KILLED BY TWO CRAZED KNIFEMEN CLOSE TO WOOLWICH BARRACKS
Hoodie: A Help for Heroes top like the one the murdered soldier was wearing
The soldier killed by two crazed fanatics just yards from the Woolwich Barracks was wearing a Help for Heroes top when he was attacked.
The young serviceman was hit by a car and crushed into a road sign on the street in south-east London before he was brutally murdered.
Video footage showed the dead man was wearing a dark blue top with white writing on it - which is believed to be the same as the Help for Heroes hoodie (right).
The killers attacked him with a collection of weapons including meat cleavers and knives before waiting for police to arrive, their hands covered in blood.
Today members of the public were donating to the charity which helps wounded troops with their rehabilitation.
One man called Allan Beattie who donated to the charity wrote: 'In memory of the soldier brutally murdered yesterday - rest in peace - and a thank you to all of our brave service men and women who do so much for us'
Kelly Alexander, who also gave to the charity wrote: 'Last night a black cloud went over our country,it will never be the same again,Rip to this young man brutally slain in his home country.I salute you x'
To donate to Help for Heroes yourself, go to www.justgiving.com/helpforheroes
Murdered: The soldier (left) appears to be wearing a dark blue Help for Heroes hoodie or t-shirt
Smashed: The car used to knock the man over. A trail of blood shows where his body was dragged
‘One was a meat cleaver, they weren’t little knives, they were big kitchen knives like you use in a butcher’s. They were hacking at the poor guy. They were chopping him, cutting him.
‘My partner jumped out of the car and shouted, I jumped out as well. One of the black guys went into the crashed car, got into the front and pulled out a bag. He pointed a gun. He shouted at my partner, “Get in the car, get in the car”.
‘I called police and said, “You need armed response, you need police, you need someone here – these two guys are chopping this man to pieces”.
'I thought there’d been an accident. But then I saw they were using meat cleavers to hack him up'
Julia Wilders, 51, witness
‘These two guys were crazed, they were not there, they were animals, they then dragged the poor guy. He was obviously dead, there was no way a human could take what they did to him, they dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road and just left it.’
Julia and Graham Wilders saw the attack as they drove past. Mrs Wilders, 51, a mother of four, said her son, nine, attends the primary school.
‘I thought there’d been an accident. But then I saw they were using meat cleavers to hack him up,’ she said.
Mr Wilders, 50, said: ‘When we walked back down to see what was happening, one of the black men pulled a handgun out from behind him.
‘There was a lorry driver and it looked like he was waving it at the lorry driver. He got down out of his cab and legged it. It was absolutely terrifying.
‘I saw a load of kids come out of school gates and I just yelled at them to get back. I ran up to the school shouting there’s a gunman and to get everybody inside.
‘The headmaster came out and they closed the school gates and kept everyone in. That was when I heard four shots.
Clues to carnage: A police forensics officer examines a gun at the scene of the attack in London yesterday
‘My wife saw it, she saw the police shoot the black guys.
‘I can’t believe this has happened. But it could’ve been so much worse, those kids were just feet from the men with the gun.’
David Dixon, headteacher of Mulgrave Primary School, said he saw a body lying in the road and put the school into lockdown.
‘All I needed to know was that there was an emergency and we needed to go into our emergency procedures to make sure that the children were as safe as possible,’ he said.
'We got all the staff to get the children in because some of them were outside doing activities, we locked all the gates'
David Dixon, headteacher of Mulgrave Primary School
‘That was my main priority. We got all the staff to get the children in because some of them were outside doing activities, we locked all the gates.’
Then an astonishing 20-minute stand-off took place as the two killers simply stood in the street waiting for police.
One bystander said they appeared ‘proud’ of what they had done as one stood over their motionless body of their victim, who lay in a pool of blood.
‘It was like something out of a horror movie,’ he said.
Joe Tallant, 20, a van loader who lives near the scene, said the attackers were walking around the body saying: ‘This is what God would’ve wanted’.
As curious crowds gathered, one of the men walked down the street and began asking people to take photos of them. A witness said: ‘It was as if he wanted to be on TV.’
The man, a tall black man wearing a beanie hat, then turned to someone filming on their phone and began ranting.
Apologising to people nearby, in a clear English accent, he said: ‘We must fight them as they fight us. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.’
Several brave women who attempted to help the dying man and shield him from further blows were not attacked.
Mr Tallant said: ‘My friend and her mum were walking up the hill and the mum came straight to the victim.
‘She asked the black guys, “Can I help him?” and one of them said he was already dead but she could go. Then one of them said, “No man is coming near this body, only women”.
‘She was so brave, she didn’t care what happened to her – she knelt down by his side and comforted him. She held his hand and put her other hand on his chest. I think she might have been praying.
'I saw a load of kids come out of school gates and I just yelled at them to get back. I ran up to the school shouting there’s a gunman and to get everybody inside'
Graham Wilders, 50, witness
‘My friend [the woman’s daughter] was crying her eyes out. She is a very religious woman. She saw everything and wanted to comfort the man.’
As armed police suddenly came around the corner, the two killers charged straight towards their vehicle, a large marked four-wheel drive.
One witness said: ‘A shot was fired by the other guy with the gun, next thing we know the police ran out and, if I’m not mistaken, six shots were fired and both men went down.
‘They were oblivious to anything, they were more worried about photos being taken and walking up and down the road, they had no intentions of running off.
‘They were waiting for the police to arrive to be shot by police.’
In the aftermath, it emerged that the blue Vauxhall Tigra with tinted windows had been seen circling Woolwich for weeks.
One minicab driver said: ‘It’s a really distinctive vehicle and looks flash – like one a drug-dealer would drive.
‘It’s been hanging around for ages right around the barracks. I’d be surprised if they haven’t been stopped by police before, as that’s the car they routinely pull over round here.
‘I’m a Muslim but if these guys did this in the name of Islam, then they don’t deserve to be part of this society.’