Thousands of police officers from across the country have begun lining the streets of central London as Britain prepares to pay their respects to hero PC Keith Palmer.
In an unprecedented gathering of police colleagues, more than 5,000 rank-and-file officers from every force in Britain are expected to line the two-mile cortege route from the Palace of Westminster to Southwark Cathedral, where the constable’s funeral is taking place.
They will be joined by an estimated 50,000 members of the public, as well as around 50 members of the PC’s family, who will come together this afternoon to pay their respects to the fallen officer.
The 48-year-old, a loyal Charlton Athletic fan, was stabbed to death by Khalid Masood last month as he carried out his duties on the cobbled forecourt of the Palace of Westminster. Minutes earlier, the knife-wielding terrorist had mown down scores of innocent pedestrians on Westminster Bridge in an 82-second rampage.
Thousands of police officers have lined the streets of central London ahead of this afternoon’s funeral for PC Keith Palmer Dressed in full uniform, several officer were pictured walking through Southwark this morning on their way to Southwark Cathedral, where the funeral is taking place More than 5,000 rank-and-file officers from every force in Britain are expected to line the two-mile route from the Palace of Westminster to Southwark Cathedral. One officer was seen looking reflective as she stood near Southwark Cathedral Scotland Yard said that full service funerals – such as PC Palmer’s – are normally only held when a police officer or member of staff dies while they are carrying out their duty. Police officers are pictured above
This afternoon, the hearse will travel on a 2.6mile route from the Chapel of St Mary Undercroft – where it has been laid overnight – across Lambeth Bridge, avoiding the scene of the atrocity on Westminster Bridge, the river crossing to the north.
The cortege will then proceed along the capital’s usually bustling streets, weaving slowly along roads adjacent to the southern bank of the Thames, including Borough High Street.
Mounted officers will then lead it to Southwark Cathedral where thousands of officers will gather at the entrance. His closest colleagues will form a guard of honour as the coffin is taken into the Cathedral.
Meanwhile, police officers across the UK who are unable to attend will hold a two-minute silence at the stroke of 2pm, to coincide with the start of the service. It will be followed by a private crematorium.
This morning, as members of the public started gathering in London, police officers and politicians used the Twitter hashtag #StandforKeith to post tributes. Train companies including Southern Rail also offered free travel to officers attending the funeral.
Meanwhile, a ring of steel was erected around central London ahead of the funeral. Metal barriers and dozens of road closures were put in place throughout the capital, while hundreds of police officers from Scotland Yard are patrolling the streets surrounding the Cathedral.
In a display of heightened security, temporary concrete barriers have also been erected at nearby roads, while a 1.2mile square area of London has been completely sealed off to all traffic.
The cordons extend to Bishopsgate on the north of the river, the Tate Modern in the West and Tower Bridge Road to the east, while Southwark Bridge and London Bridge are also both closed off.
Police sniffer dogs were also seen patrolling the route of the cortège, while other officers were seen searching bins and alleyways along key roads to ensure it was safe, according to the Evening Standard.
A ring of steel has been erected around Westminster ahead of this afternoon’s funeral for hero PC Keith Palmer. The route of the cortege is shown above Several members of the public have gathered close to the Cathedral ahead of this afternoon’s funeral. One mourner was holding a sign which read: ‘Our spirit will not be broken’ Metal barriers and dozens of road closures have been put in place as thousands of rank-and-file officers are expected to line the route of the cortege from Westminster to Southwark Cathedral The cordons extend to Bishopsgate on the north of the river, the Tate Modern in the West and Tower Bridge Road to the east, while Southwark Bridge and London Bridge (pictured) are also both closed off
Chief Constable Sara Thornton, head of the National Police Chiefs’ Council, said the scale of the funeral will be unprecedented.
She told the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire Show: ‘I don’t think we will have ever seen a police funeral of this size.
‘Officers from all over the country are coming to London to join their Metropolitan Police colleagues to line the route. But at 2pm outside police stations across the country, officers and staff will be observing a two-minutes’ silence.
‘We all want to pay honour to the ultimate sacrifice that Keith made.’
The Queen gave permission for PC Palmer’s body to rest in the Palace of Westminster, an honour normally reserved for heads of state and senior politicians such as Baroness Thatcher and Tony Benn.
Yesterday, PC Palmer’s emotional colleagues formed a guard of honour as his coffin, draped in a police flag, was escorted into the chapel.
Ms Thornton said the gesture had had a ‘tremendous impact’ on police as they go about their duty.
She said: ‘The fact Keith has laid in rest in the Palace of Westminster is a sort of acknowledgement on behalf of the whole country of the sacrifice that he made but also the job that officers do day in, day out.’
This map, released by Scotland Yard, shows the road closures in place in central London today, including London Bridge In a display of heightened security, hundreds of police officers from Scotland Yard are already patrolling the streets surrounding the Cathedral (pictured), with several standing guard outside the entrances Temporary concrete barriers have been erected at nearby roads (shown, bottom left), including around London Bridge, while a 1.2m square area of London has been completely sealed off to all traffic. Police officers are pictured this morning
Scotland Yard also said that full service funerals – such as PC Palmer’s – are normally only held when a police officer or member of staff dies while they are carrying out their duty.
The last full police funeral for a Met officer killed in the line of duty was in October 2013 for PC Andrew Duncan, who was killed the month before after being hit by a car while checking vehicle speeds in Sutton, south London.
PC Palmer, who was a member of the Metropolitan Police’s parliamentary and diplomatic protection command, had served with the force for 15 years.
The father-of-one was nominated just two years ago for ‘best thief taker’ in the Commissioner’s Excellence Awards, having made more than 150 arrests in 12 months.
Before he joined Scotland Yard, PC Palmer served as a reservist in the Royal Artillery from August 1987 to August 2001, leaving as a bombardier.
Scotland Yard said that PC Palmer’s shoulder number, 4157U, would be retired and not reissued to any other officer as a mark of respect.
His name has been 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.
His funeral comes on the first day that Cressida Dick formally takes the helm of the Metropolitan Police. Ms Dick was named as the first female commissioner in the Metropolitan Police’s 188-year history in February.
Paying tribute to him previously, she said: ‘We will never forget his courage. My deepest sympathy is with his family and with the loved ones of everyone who lost their lives.’
Prime Minister Theresa May also described him in the Commons as ‘every inch a hero’.
In a speech the day after the attack, she added: ‘PC Palmer had devoted his life to the service of his country. He was a husband and a father, killed doing a job he loved. He was every inch a hero, and his actions will never be forgotten.’
Her words reduced Tory MP Tobias Ellwood, who was part of the team who tried to save the life of PC Palmer, to tears.
The Queen had given permission for PC Palmer’s body to rest in the Palace of Westminster, an honour normally reserved for heads of state and senior politicians. The coffin is pictured arriving there yesterday Yesterday, PC Palmer’s emotional colleagues formed a guard of honour as his coffin was taken to the Palace of Westminster Thousands of floral tributes still remain in Parliament Square (pictured) for the victims of the Westminster terror attack
Ken Marsh, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation, said the response had been ‘incredible’.
He added: ‘The public are as appalled by what happened as the police. At times they can be our biggest critics but when something like this happens they come together with us, because they don’t like someone hurting one of their own.
‘I can’t recall an occasion like this in regard to the number of officers who will be there, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it is a family funeral. It is for Keith’s family and we have made sure we have done everything his wife wants because, first and foremost, it is for her to mourn her husband.’
A JustGiving page for the hero’s family raised more than £700,000 in the weeks after his killing.
Plans are also in place for a permanent memorial stone for PC Palmer at The Valley stadium in south east London, where the ‘wonderful dad and husband’ would watch his favourite team play.
In a statement released following the attack, his family said: ‘Keith will be remembered as a wonderful dad and husband. A loving son, brother and uncle. A long-time supporter of Charlton FC.
‘Dedicated to his job and proud to be a police officer, brave and courageous. A friend to everyone who knew him. He will be deeply missed.’
Four other people were killed and dozens of others injured in the 82-second atrocity on Wednesday March 22, which ended with Masood 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.