Westminster attack: 'I have no hate toward my husband's killer', says Melissa Cochran

Caroline Davies
Melissa Cochran, wife of Kurt Cochran, one of those killed in the attack, attends the service at Westminster Abbey. Photograph: WPA Pool/Getty Images

Hundreds of floral tributes still carpet a corner of Parliament Square, serving as a reminder of the shock that jolted the capital following those 82 seconds of mayhem and murder at its heart two weeks ago.

But terror yielded to hope on Wednesday at a service at Westminster Abbey for the dead, the injured, and all those who came to their aid.

Candles were lit and held by each of the 1,800 people in the congregation as an act of commitment, shining brightly as a tangible symbol that light would always overcome darkness.

Families of the four people who were killed, and survivors of the 22 March Westminster Bridge attack, were joined by paramedics, nurses, doctors – the first aid responders dispatched to the scene – community and faith leaders, ambassadors and politicians.

Among them was Melissa Payne Cochran, from Utah, who lost her husband, Kurt Cochran, 54, in the attack. She smiled as she arrived at the abbey in a wheelchair after being treated for leg and rib injuries. The couple had been in London celebrating their 25th anniversary.

She was accompanied by her parents. The service was the first time the families of those killed had been together in one place.

The others who died as a result of the attack were Aysha Frade, 44, a college worker and mother of two on her way to collect her children from school, Leslie Rhodes, 75, a retired window cleaner from Clapham, south London, and PC Keith Palmer, 48, stabbed while on duty guarding the Houses of Parliament.

Prince William lays a wreath before attending the service at Westminster Abbey. Photograph: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Relatives of the dead and injured had a private meeting with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry, who attended the service.

A sea of dark blue filled the abbey as up to 300 members of the Metropolitan police service took their seats to pay tribute to one of their own. PC Palmer, a father of two, was stabbed to death as he tackled attacker Khalid Masood, 52.

Masood, a Muslim convert, was shot dead by an armed officer after he drove a rented 4x4 into crowds on Westminster Bridge and then stabbed Palmer, who was unarmed and on gate duty.

Melissa Cochran paid tribute to her late husband, Kurt, and explained she had “no hate” towards Masood, his killer.

“Kurt was probably the best man I’ve ever met. He was sweet and kind and I’m extremely proud of him. And I’m very happy that the world now knows what a wonderful man he was. He would probably hate all the publicity. He’s a very private kind of person. Very generous. Very sweet. And the love of my life,” she told the BBC.

As tears flowed, she described how her parents broke the news that he had died after she came out of recovery from surgery. “Both grabbed my hands and said that he didn’t make it. Which crushed me,” she said.

“Fortunately I have a wonderful family and I’m able to take their strength and recover. It’s been difficult, obviously, but Kurt would have wanted me to keep going and with such a beautiful family that I have it’s been OK.

Asked about her feelings towards his killer, she replied: “I don’t feel any ill will towards him. I don’t know what he was feeling or thinking, or anything that had been going on in his life. And so I can’t relate. I just know that unfortunately he didn’t have the qualities and the beautiful heart that my husband had. So, I actually feel a little sorry for him. No hate.”

Rows of green uniforms represented the medical workers who attended the shocking scene and later treated the injured.

The abbey saw faith leaders join the home secretary, Amber Rudd, the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, the Labour leader, Jeremy Corbyn, the Commons Speaker, John Bercow, and the acting Metropolitan police commissioner, Craig Mackey, as the dean of Westminster, John Hall, said: “At a time of sorrow, a time when we are tempted to despair, may we find hope.”

Prince William laid a wreath of spring flowers, including red and white roses and gerbera, at the Innocent Victims memorial as he arrived. His card said: “In memory of the innocent lives; lost to us all on the 22 March 2017.”

Inside, Hall told the invited congregation the attack had left everyone “bewildered and disturbed”. But the flowers, many fresh, some now fading, laid out on the green and tied to lamp-posts on the bridge, and the accompanying messages spoke to “determination and defiance in the face of evil and terror”, he said. They were “simple statements of courage, ‘we are not afraid’ and ‘we stand together’”.

London’s mayor Sadiq Khan takes part in the service at Westminster Abbey. Photograph: POOL/Reuters

Up to 50 had been injured, some seriously. “Those killed and injured included Londoners, but also people from the United States of America, from Romania, France, South Korea, Italy, China, Australia, Greece, Portugal, Germany, Poland and Ireland,” said Hall.

“We weep for the violence, for the hatred, for the loss of life, for all that divides and spoils our world. It was not meant to be like this. It should not be like this. Violence and hatred are not the answer,.”

He added: “We have called this a service of hope. And despite the horror of the random killing and hatred shown two weeks ago today, there is much for which we can be thankful and much to offer us hope.”

Khan said: “The city has shown its resilience. This service today is one of hope. We are not going to be cowed by terrorists and what was remarkable about the day was how you saw our police and emergency services rushing towards danger. They showed the very best of humanity and the very best of London.”

First responders, many from the Metropolitan police, others medical workers from nearby St Thomas’ hospital who rushed over Westminster Bridge to the scene moments after the attack, gathered in the Deanery drawing room at the abbey following the service to meet the royal trio.

Dame Eileen Sills, of Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation trust, who attended the service, said many of them “ran without any thought of whether it was safe to do so because it happened so quickly, they had no idea of what they were going into”. She said some members of staff had not yet picked up the courage to walk across the bridge since.

Commander Mak Chisty, of the Metropolitan police, who read one of the prayers, told the BBC: “The whole purpose of terrorism is to shock communities, to disrupt them, to divide them.

“And London’s difference has been its strength. So we have all come together, we have stood together. And it’s occasions like this, when you get inspiration and hope and I’m certainly hopeful for the future.”

Richard Mills, an assistant commissioner of London fire brigade, said of the service: “Events such as these are the start of the healing process.”