A woman who risked her life to confront an armed man suspected of slaughtering a British soldier in broad daylight has described how she tried to calm him moments after the barbaric attack.
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett, 48, was on a bus heading through Woolwich in south east London when she spotted the stricken soldier lying bloodied in the road.
Her bravery - and that of others who tried to reason with the killers – has been praised, particularly in the wake of amateur footage from the scene, which shows one of the two suspects making political statements about the slaughter while still brandishing weapons.
Cub leader Ms Loyau-Kennett said she initially thought the victim had been injured in a car crash after spotting a badly damaged vehicle on a pavement at the scene.
She said: “I went to the guy and when I approached the body there was a lady cradling him. And then (one of the killers), the most excited one of the two, said, ‘Don’t go too close to the body’.
“I thought, okay. And because I was down I could see a butcher’s knife and an axe – that’s what he had – and blood. I thought, what the heck? I thought obviously he was a bit excited and the thing was just to talk to him.”
Ms Loyau-Kennett said she tried to reason with the killer in an effort to focus his attention away from other potential victims, as large crowds began to huddle at the scene.
She said: “I know it’s big today but for me it was just a regular guy, just a bit upset. He was not on drugs, he was not drunk.
“He said, ‘Don’t touch, I killed him’. I said, ‘Why?’ He said: ‘He’s a British soldier. He killed people. He killed Muslim people in Muslim countries.’
“And I said: okay. So what would you like? I tried to maker him talk about how he felt. He said all the bombs dropping and blindly killing women, children...
“More and more people were starting to come. There were so many people around. I just looked around and I found it so daunting.”
However, Ms Loyau-Kennett said her thoughts were to “just carry on” talking to the man, while several woman arriving at the scene tried to shield the victim.
She said: “I wanted him to concentrate on me and make sure he doesn’t have a funny idea.
“He (the killer) told me he was a British soldier – he didn’t look like a British soldier to me, he wasn’t in uniform. But I thought if another one passes by, or is in the area...”
Asked if she was scared, the woman replied: “No – better me than a child. Unfortunately there were more and more mothers with children stopping around, so it was even more important I was talking to him and ask him what he wanted.”
Local Muslim Lucky Awale witnessed the attack as she made her way home with her sister.
She said: “When we got near we saw this guy with dark clothes holding the knife and talking like a crazy man, saying ‘this Government needs to change’, things like that. He wasn’t scared, he was saying ‘call the police’.”
She said the men could not be real Muslims but suggested they had their own reasons for doing it.
“We live multiculturally, all kinds of people live here, all kinds of religions,” she added.
“For incidents like this to happen in the name of Muslims, it sends the wrong impression to people like the EDL, thinking that Muslims would be like that.”
Mrs Awale said her sympathy was with the dead man’s family and she was scared that such a violent attack could happen where she lived, adding: “We are scared as a community today. My sister lives near here and she is scared to come out, she is scared of the EDL and everything.
“Our kids are big enough to go to school by themselves but today we had to take them because we are scared.
“We are just asking for people not to take the wrong impression, the wrong idea, and take revenge on Muslims.”
David Dixon, headteacher of Mulgrave Primary School, 100 yards from the killing, said: “To have an incident of this nature take place so close to the school was obviously very shocking for pupils, staff and parents.
“At the time, no one knew the exact nature of the incident and whether there was the potential for further risk to children’s safety.
“We therefore immediately put our contingency measures in place making sure that all children were safe and helping them to stay calm, then making arrangements as soon as possible to contact parents and ensure children could safely be taken home.
“Today our priority has been to focus on ensuring children have as calm and as normal a day as possible.
“Parents have been very supportive of the school in this, despite the obvious shock at having such an incident take place in their community.
“Staff have been talking informally with children this morning about what happened, since when we have sought to have as normal a school day as possible.”