It should have been a time of celebration for staff of Lavenham Butchers on Wednesday, instead they got caught up in the terrorist attacks in Westminster.
Harriet Steer, senior researcher for South Suffolk MP James Cartlidge, and her colleague Ian Stephens from Hadleigh were giving staff from the butchers a tour of the Palace of Westminster when they heard and then saw the attack taking place.
The team from Lavenham Butchers were at Westminster where they had just received a highly commended in the Countryside Alliance Awards’ best butcher category.
Miss Steer, who comes from Raydon and is also a Babergh district councillor for Alton Ward, said: “South Suffolk constituents were stood within metres of the attacker after they had come for a great thing to celebrate small businesses.
“I was doing a tour and was about to start. We were walking through Westminster Hall and had got to the front door and when we came out there was all this wailing.
“I turned to my colleague Ian and said ‘It sounds like someone’s been run over’. Then there was a big bang and lots of smoke.
“There was lots of shouting and we were just literally about 15 metres from the gates that he [the attacker] came through.
“As he came through you could see the police back off, then we watched as he entered.
“One of the butcher’s guys shouted ‘he’s got knives, he’s got knives’.
“At that point I made a decision to get back inside and we just ran really and locked ourselves in one of the rooms in Westminster Hall.
“It was pretty scary. We were right next to where the officer got stabbed. By the time we had got through the door we could hear shots. It was pretty traumatic.
“I don’t really worry about working in Parliament. In reality by the time the intruder was on the estate he was very quickly stopped.
“Within minutes there were 30 or 40 police officers. There are so many. Honestly I feel even more safe now. I can’t emphasise enough how brilliant they were.
“You would expect chaos but there was none. All of us are witnesses but the police were lovely and checked we were okay.
“We will be followed up for statements but they really were fantastic.”
Mr Cartlidge expressed his pride in the way Miss Steer and his other constituents reacted.
He was inside the House of Commons which was locked down.
“They [staff from the butchers] were extremely praiseworthy of Harriet who reacted very well and got them to a place of safety, so I’m very proud of her.
“My experience was that, after watching Lavenham Butchers collect their award, a division was called and after walking through the lobby to vote,
“I sat down in the chamber to await the result and then word spread of the attack. The Deputy Speaker soon suspended the sitting but we were ordered to remain where we were and were kept locked in the chamber for several hours, under anti-terrorist police guard.
“We kept up good spirits, but were very much aware of the tragedy unfolding outside. On reflection, this was such a cowardly attack, using a 4x4 to kill completely defenceless members of the public; but it contrasts with the bravery of PC Palmer and all those who tended the wounded and rallied round in the face of murderous mayhem.”