Scotland Yard has finally ruled out a terror motive after a car collided with pedestrians injuring 11 outside the Natural History Museum declaring it a road traffic collision.
A statement read: “Police were called at 1421 hours on Saturday, 7 October to reports of a road traffic collision in Exhibition Road, South Kensington. Emergency Service attended the scene.
“Whilst enquiries continue it is believed a car mounted the pavement and collided with a number of pedestrians. Eleven people were found at the scene with varying injuries and nine of them have been taken to hospital, and this includes the man that was detained by police. Their injuries are not believed to be life-threatening or life-changing.
“The man detained by officers is currently under arrest and is in custody at a north London police station. The incident is a road traffic investigation and not a terrorist-related incident. Enquiries are ongoing.”
Police had earlier said they were keeping an open mind after the incident, but created more confusion after contradicting an earlier comment that they were not treating the crash as terrorism-related. A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said counter-terrorism officers were assessing the incident but had not yet reached a conclusion as to the circumstances.
According to eyewitness accounts a car mounted the pavement around 14.20 hours near the museum on west London’s Exhibition Road popular with families and tourists. The Met Police said a number of people had been injured and a man had been detained. Emergency services also attended the scene as the area was cordoned off.
— RR NEWS (@RosaRodaNews) October 7, 2017
Natural History Museum said on Saturday there had been a serious incident outside and it was working with police. A museum spokesman told Reuters that no one was being allowed into the building and people were being let out through a different exit. Unconfirmed reports said other museums in the area were being evacuated. The neighbourhood also known as the museum quarters or Albertopolis (So-called after the Royal Albert Hall) in South Kensington is also home to the Victoria and Albert Museum, Science Museum, Royal Geographic Museum and Imperial College campus.
BBC reporter Chloe Hayward was leaving the Natural History Museum as the incident unfolded. “I could see a car diagonally across the road, looking like it was going into one of the boulders on the side of the road, and I could see a crowd of people around what was clearly one or two people on the pavement. Latest images emerging show a person sandwiched between police officers in high-vis jackets on a bench with bandaged ankles.
“We have had lots of police coming onto the scene, helicopters above, and I can see an ambulance which is definitely having someone put in, but it isn’t clear how bad that injury is.”
The area does not actually have a pedestrianised pavement but a ‘shared space’ where pedestrians and traffic share the use of the road. The roads around the museums were redesigned in a radical multi-million pound project to make the landscape more sympathetic to pedestrians. But concrete boulders have recently been introduced at the bottom end near the main arterial A4 Cromwell Road.
The country is on its second highest security alert level, meaning an attack by militants is considered highly likely. There have been five attacks described by the authorities as terrorism this year, three involving vehicles.
In March, a man drove a car into pedestrians on London’s Westminster Bridge killing four before stabbing a police officer to death in the grounds of parliament.
Three Islamist militants drove into people on London Bridge in June before stabbing people at nearby restaurants and bars, killing eight. The same month, a van was driven into worshippers near a mosque in north London which left one man dead.
The Natural History Museum is the fourth most popular tourist attraction in the United Kingdom, with 4.6m visits during 2016, according to the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. A spokeswoman from the museum said: “The Museum’s visitors and staff are always our first priority.
“We are working with emergency services to assess the incident and we are doing all we can.”
The Victoria and Albert Museum has tweeted that it is still open for visitors. Restaurants in the piazza area of the Exhibition Road near the South Kensington tube station where diners eat al-fresco have been cleared and is now deserted.
- This is a developing story and will be continuously updated.