When bystanders in John Wilson Street heard a car smashing into a street sign, they turned and saw what they thought were two black men trying to help a white man they had run over.
Instinctively, some started to head towards the chaotic scene in Woolwich, south-east London, to offer help, or stopped their cars so they could call for an ambulance.
But what they were witnessing was not a suburban road accident, but the most brutal murder imaginable, as two al-Qaeda-inspired Islamist terrorists hacked at their victim “like a piece of meat” in an “animal” frenzy on the suburban pavement. The attack on the soldier was so brutal that it appeared as if “they were trying to remove organs”, according to one man who witnessed the first terrorist murder on British soil in eight years.
When they finally finished beheading and butchering the soldier’s body, the assailants appeared to say a prayer “as if it was a sacrifice”, one witness said.
Police took so long to arrive that the killers casually paced up and down the street, their hands dripping with blood, making a series of pronouncements that were filmed by onlookers.