Witnesses suggested that the men had first hit the victim with a vehicle before attacking him with knives. Some reports indicated that the attackers had yelled “God is great” in Arabic before wildly stabbing at the victim, with conflicting accounts on whether they had tried to behead him. The men encouraged passengers on a bus to photograph them and film them with phone cameras, leading to a number of chilling videos and photos posted online. The attack occurred near a school, and local television showed children unnerved by the mayhem. The men, walking around bloody and shouting after the attack, apparently allowed only women to approach the body before police arrived.
A 48-year-old woman, Ingrid Layou-Kennett, approached one of the men just after the attack, engaging him in conversation in an attempt to aid the victim, the Telegraph reported. A published photograph showed the woman speaking to the assailant as he clutched a blade.
“I asked him if he did it and he said yes, and I said why? And he said because [the victim] has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries,” Layou-Kennett said, according to the paper.
One photo showed a blue car apparently used by the men to initially hit the man crashed on the sidewalk.
Boya Dee, a local rapper who tweeted about the attack as it occurred, wrote, “Ohhhhh myyyy God!!!! I just see a man with his head chopped off right in front of my eyes!”
Resident Graham Wilders told the BBC he initially thought that there had been an accident and that the two assailants were trying to aid the victim. “As I drive round the corner, I see the car on the pavement. I thought there has been an accident . . . ’cause as I drive round the corner there was two people leaning over and I thought they were trying to resuscitate him. There was a bloke against the wall . . . another bloke told me they were stabbing him.”
Valentina Soria, a terrorism expert at IHS Jane’s Consulting, said a national security meeting being held so promptly after the attack suggested that the assailants may not have been on the radar of Britain’s intelligence agencies.
“The government is treating this as a very serious incident,” Soria said. “At the end of the day, it is the first successful terrorist attack on the U.K. since the 7/7 bombings.”
“The fact that it was carried out in the middle of the day in a public street is very concerning,” she continued. “There are indications that this was a terrorist attack of jihadist nature. Whether it is homegrown, we can’t yet say. But the fact that they wanted to be filmed indicates that they were seeking public attention. That is the aim, in itself, of the attack.”
Eliza Mackintosh contributed to this report.