Inside a day of chaos when Kensington was locked down by counter-terrorism police

Few of the residents who spoke to reporters Monday morning knew much about the residents of the house in the center of raids in Kensington.

But the men, who lived at the address in Sutcliffe Street, were thrown into the spotlight on Sunday afternoon when specialists from Counter Terrorism North West arrived in force with automatic weapons.

Shortly before 11 a.m. Sunday, a taxi stopped outside the main entrance to Liverpool Women’s Hospital and immediately exploded, killing 32-year-old Emad Al-Swealmeen, believed to be a terrorist in possession of an improvised bomb.

READ MORE: Pub locked down with players inside when terror suspect was arrested

The driver of the taxi, David Perry, somehow survived the first explosion and managed to jump from his vehicle before bursting into flames and escaping with non-life-threatening injuries.

In the hours that followed, streets were blocked in Kensington and near Sefton Park as specialists worked to unravel the alleged terror plan.

In Kensington, the focus of the operation was a terrace on the corner of Sutcliffe Street next to the Sir Walter Raleigh pub.

The house appeared to be subdivided into sub-leases, with several individual doorbells visible at the front door, suggesting that it was one of the many multi-occupancy houses (HMOs) prevalent in the area.

On Sutcliffe Street, at the intersection of busy Boaler Street, police shooters surrounded the property and trained their rifles on the parallel back streets, while stunned neighbors were ordered to stay inside and stay away from the windows.

Four men were arrested on the property by armed officers from Counter Terrorism North West, but now all four have been released with Assistant Police Officer Russ Jackson announcing: “After interviews with the arrested men, we are pleased with the reports they have provided and they have been released from police custody. “

But for residents surrounded by police with automatic weapons on Sunday, the action was an extraordinary shock.

A mother of two who did not want to be named was just meters away when officers pulled the suspects from the property onto the main road.

She told ECHO: “We looked out the window around 2.30pm and the whole street was cordoned off.

“Then it came around that it was to do with the terrorist attack. They brought the suspects around the corner and they arrested them here [on Boaler Street].

Explosion of Liverpool Women’s Hospital

“The police officers shouted quite loudly at them, but they did not respond properly.

“He got one of the suspects to confirm how many rooms there were in the house, and he said four.”

The mother said shortly before 10pm that she was asked to leave the address with her children, who were horrified at the sight of armed police.

Factory worker Keith Ford, 47, who lives next door but one to the property, watched the scene unfold out of his living room window.

He told ECHO: “Around 3.30pm I heard the police shouting and then a gentleman went out, I could only see him from behind, but he went out with his hands up.

“I could not hear anything being said, but the officer used his hands to draw as ‘follow me, follow me’.

“About an hour later, I heard a police officer shout ‘come to the door’, ‘come to the door’. I think he came to the door, but then he ran in again.

“It all went a little quiet, the police raised their weapons and then lowered them. But around 6.30pm an officer caught my attention by shining the light from his rifle in the window.

Keith Ford, 47, looks out on Sutcliffe Street, Kensington, the morning after counter-terrorism attacks in connection with the explosion at Liverpool Women’s Hospital

“I went to the door and he said ‘can you come out, we are evacuating the area, is there a place you can go?’. He asked me to take as many things as I could and I went to a family member . “

Keith’s partner Joan was already at the other address with their 13-year-old daughter at the time of the raid, saying the teenager had “cried all night”.

Joan was one of the few local residents who spoke to the residents of the property in recent weeks.

She said: “There was a car parked outside my address and I think they had some issues with the side mirror.

“I went to the door and asked nicely if they could move it, because my partner is disabled and has to park at the door.

“He was really polite, he seemed nice, he said ‘yes no problem madam’.”

Marcus Berry, a shop assistant at JD Sports, and 17-year-old Ellie Cornthwaite, who works at the Woodside Ferry Terminal, were sitting outside their property after the police blockade was eased this morning.

Marcus Berry, 21, and Ellie Cornthwaite, 17, on Sutcliffe Street the morning after raids by counter-terrorism police in connection with the explosion outside Liverpool Women's Hospital
Marcus Berry, 21, and Ellie Cornthwaite, 17, on Sutcliffe Street the morning after raids by counter-terrorism police in connection with the explosion outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital

Marcus, 21, said: “We were sitting in the back and had a ciggie around 3pm. My mother’s guy came in and said there was all armed response on the street outside.

“We came out to see what happened and all the armed policemen got out of their cars on their way to the entrance.”

Marcus and Ellie described how a large barrier was put in place and residents were asked to stay indoors.

None of them had seen much of the occupants of the house.

Freelance sound and lighting engineer Matthew Heitman, who lives on the side of Sutcliffe Street opposite the house, said he had been told by a neighbor that residents had moved relatively recently, possibly within a month.

Scene of anti-terrorism attack on Sutcliffe Street, Kensington
Scene of anti-terrorism attack on Sutcliffe Street, Kensington

Residents around Sutcliffe Street and nearby Cambria Street described armed officers training their rifles in the alley behind the house for hours after the initial arrests.

Last night, police named Al Swealmeen as the man killed in the blast, saying that while he had been linked to addresses in Sutcliffe Street and in Rutland Avene, the Sefton Park property has become the focus of the investigation.

Assistant Chief Constable Jackson said: “We have made significant progress since Sunday morning and have a much greater understanding of the components of the unit, how they were procured and how the parts were likely assembled.

“We have also found important evidence from the address on Rutland Avenue, which is becoming central to the investigation.

“There is a long way to go to understand how this incident was planned, prepared for and how it happened. We are gaining a better understanding from hour to hour, but it will probably take some time, maybe many weeks, before we are confident in our understanding of what has happened.

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