Terror comes to Liverpool

'It has been declared a terrorist incident' - and the rest of our weekly briefing

Dear readers — the national terrorism threat level has been increased to severe this afternoon, meaning an attack is highly likely, following yesterday’s explosion in a taxi outside Liverpool’s Women’s Hospital. We’ve got the latest confirmed details about the explosion, which has been declared a “terrorist incident”, plus the rest of our regular briefing.

Tomorrow we will be publishing a fuller account of yesterday’s events, based on reporting we have been doing in the city today and other accounts. If you have any information that you would like to contribute to that piece, please email editor@livpost.co.uk or just hit reply to this newsletter. That includes if you were at the Women’s Hospital, attending the Remembrance Sunday service at the cathedral, or live on one of the streets where police have been making raids and arrests.

A very warm welcome to our new members who signed up over the weekend, and thanks for your lovely emails wishing us good luck. Our members-only stories will start this week, although we are slightly rejigging the schedule because of yesterday’s incident. If you want to get our members-only coverage in the days ahead, as well as our free stories, please do join as a member now. It’s £7 per month, or £65 per year, and you can cancel at any time with two clicks.

🌥 This week’s weather

Covid-19 update

The case rate for Liverpool City Region is 335.4, down 5.3% from the previous week, compared to 363 nationally, down 3.2%. See the dashboard below — it refreshes daily, so click on it to be updated.

The vaccine rollout continues nationally: now that 16 and 17-year-olds are being encouraged to have their second dose of a Covid-19 jab, we can expect vaccine uptake to go up. We’ll bring you an update on those numbers for Merseyside as soon as we can.

The big story: Four arrests as explosion declared a terrorist incident

Top line: A clearer picture is forming of yesterday’s explosion outside Liverpool’s Women’s Hospital, with police declaring it a “terrorist incident” and a CCTV video shedding more light on the sequence of events just before a taxi was engulfed in flames.

The latest: The country’s terrorism threat level has been increased to severe. Home Secretary Priti Patel MP said: "This means that a terrorist attack is highly likely, although there is no intelligence to suggest that an attack is imminent."

Prime Minister Boris Johnson was due to chair an emergency COBRA meeting about the incident this afternoon. At a Covid-19 press conference a short time ago, he said:

What yesterday showed above all is that the British people will never be cowed by terrorism, we will never give in to those who seek to divide us with senseless acts of violence. Our freedoms and our way of life will always prevail.

‘Terrorist incident’: This morning, Assistant Chief Constable Russ Jackson of Counter-Terrorism Policing North West, told journalists: "Although the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident.” Jackson confirmed some key details about what happened yesterday, including:

  • The explosion took place shortly before 11am outside the Women’s Hospital.

  • The taxi in which it took place had picked up a ride in the Rutland Avenue area, and the passenger asked to be taken to the hospital.

  • The device, which appears to be an improvised explosive device, was brought into the taxi by the passenger, and the passenger died inside the vehicle.

  • The taxi driver was called David Perry, and he has been discharged from hospital today.

Jackson did not confirm widespread reports that Perry had locked the taxi’s doors to stop the passenger from getting out. CCTV of the incident appears to show the explosion taking place with Perry still in the driver’s seat, and then shows him falling out of his door and then stumbling away from the car. About the origin of the explosive device, Jackson told the press:

Our assumption is it [the bomb] was built by the passenger in the taxi. The reason why he then took it to the Women’s Hospital is unknown. As is the reason for its sudden explosion. We are of course aware that there were remembrance events just a short distance away from the Hospital and that the ignition occurred shortly before 11am.

There have been arrests on Sutcliffe Street in Kensington. Three were made under the Terrorism Act — the men were all in their 20s. A fourth arrest was made this morning, also in the Kensington area, and a 20-year-old man is in custody. All four were expected to be questioned by counter-terror officers this afternoon and evening.

Eyewitness: Sharon Cullen, whose home on Boaler Street shares a back alley with Sutcliffe Street, saw armed police arrest the three men yesterday. She was later evacuated along with her husband, daughter, and grandson. She told The Post this afternoon:

At about 4.30pm I saw armed police holding big guns over the fence. At 5.30pm, I heard them shout 'Armed response! Get on the floor!' The amount of officers on the scene was unreal. It was happening literally yards from my house – it was so scary.

Sharon shared this photo with us, of an armed police officer pointing a gun at the house.

Rutland Avenue near Sefton Park has been the scene of extraordinary police activity, with a large number of armed officers on the street from yesterday afternoon. Eight families who live on the street were evacuated last night, and at 8pm last night the Echo’s reporter Liam Thorp, who was an excellent source of updates from the scene, tweeted: “Two police officers that have arrived and are now inside the cordon are wearing protective vests with ‘negotiator’ written on them.”

  • Not much is known at this point what the police activity on Rutland Avenue was focused on. When asked at the press conference whether an address on the road was a "bomb factory" Jackson declined to confirm that detail.

  • Police said today that “significant items have been found” at an address there, and that further searches were necessary.

  • As we were about to send this newsletter, it was confirmed that police have carried out a controlled explosion in Sefton Park, which is nearby Rutland Avenue.

Looking ahead: Merseyside Police are carrying out increased patrols across the city, and the council has confirmed that all schools in the city will be open as usual tomorrow.

Next up: We’re publishing a fuller account of yesterday’s incident tomorrow. If you have information or expertise to contribute to our reporting on this story, please hit reply to this newsletter or email editor@livpost.co.uk.

If you would like to support our reporting and help us to become a viable new media organisation for the city region, please do join us as a member. You will also get all of our journalism on this and other stories in the weeks ahead.

Other local news in brief

‘Unsafe’ abortions | A branch of the British Pregnancy Advisory Service in Aigburth — an abortion clinic which also provides advice — has been put into special measures after an investigation found staff were not identifying women at risk after surgery, medicines weren’t safely stored or prescribed and serious incidents weren’t being logged properly. BPAS told the Echo the pandemic had impacted their standards and promised to improve. Read more.

Women’s football | Ex-Liverpool Feds players are making period packs for women football clubs in the hopes of improving facilities when players are on their periods at training. Manchester FA and Brighton Seagulls have picked up the idea and they hope others will follow. “It's seen as: 'If you want to be on the same level as men then you shouldn't be complaining about stuff like that.' That's the stigma we wanted to get around.” Read more.

Get in touch: If you want to tell us about a story or pass on some information, please email editor@livpost.co.uk or mollie@livpost.co.uk. We are always happy to speak to people off-the-record in the first instance, and we will treat your information in confidence and with sensitivity.

Home of the week

This beautiful Gothic 19th century cottage in Birkenhead has a quirky green-tiled kitchen and period details. It’s on the market for £250,000.

Our favourite reads

There’s a great old interview in the Irish Times with Terence Davies — recently described as the best film director alive by one national newspaper. He talks about coming out, growing up in Liverpool and his troubled relationship with his father. “Being gay has ruined my life!” he nearly shouts. “I hate it. I’ll go to my grave hating it. Which is why I have been celibate. One-night stands are not for me. I was not good looking. I did not have a good body. Nobody was interested when I was young. Now I am old. I am still not good looking. I know what I am. I will always loathe it. It has killed part of my soul.”

Chris Baraniuk visited the Williamson Tunnels with the dedicated volunteers who have excavated and rediscovered them, in this fascinating feature for BBC Future. It tells us about those who are dedicated to unearthing the city’s secrets, and what the lost artefacts of the past can show us about how people lived. “The air is still. It’s quiet. Occasionally, the sound of a water droplet bursting feebly onto stone echoes through the chamber. Somewhere, somehow, moisture is getting in. But for the most part, it’s dry. And were it not for the smattering of electric lights, this 200-year-old tunnel beneath the streets of Liverpool would be very dark — and very lonely.” You can also read our own feature about the tunnels from earlier this year.

We liked ‘Golden unhastening days’ in the TLS — a review of the biography of Angela Thirkell, who wrote about middle-class lives in the twentieth century. It’s by Dinah Birch, pro-Vice Chancellor for Cultural Engagement and professor of English Literature at the University of Liverpool. “Her eventual choice of husband, perhaps naively approved by a family used to allowing her freedom, was calamitous. James Campbell McInnes, sixteen years her senior, with Northern working-class origins that could hardly have been more different from Thirkell’s privileged upbringing, was a professional singer. Tall, strong, dark and dashing, McInnes was gifted with a ravishing voice. Many found him compellingly attractive, and Thirkell was entirely smitten.”

Post members will get lots more reading recommendations and nods towards great things to do each week in our members-only newsletters, each of which will have a ‘mini-briefing’ before the main story. To to those, do join up as a member today.

Post from the Past

A docker waits to see if he has work that day, 1963 — by Colin Jones, a former ballet dancer and celebrated photojournalist of northern life in England.

You can read a Guardian obituary about Colin here.

Post Picks

🎞 Quiz | This one is for any cinephiles in the crowd — the Everyman is hosting a cinema quiz this Thursday, spanning all decades, genres, and places. It kicks off at 8pm and we recommend getting a strong team together. More info here.

🎨 Exhibition | There’s a free exhibition on at Liverpool’s FACT on Wood Street which looks fascinating: “Future Ages Will Wonder presents an ‘alternative museum’ of artworks that use science and technology to question our past and offer new ways of understanding who we are and where we belong.” More info here.

🎙 Podcast | In case you missed it, the Guardian explores the story of the missing Chinese sailors in Liverpool, and the betrayal and abandonment that the story revealed, in a new podcast. It makes for emotional listening. Listen here.

🐣 Baby week | Liverpool Museums are hosting baby week, and there’s a great selection of creative and sensory events for babies and new mums across the city region, including visits to the aquarium, planetarium and storytelling sessions. Details here.

🎵 Playlist | On Record Merseyside Festival curated some great playlists exploring the influence of black music on the city and how black influences changed Liverpool’s music scene in the late 20th century, which are free to listen to on Spotify. Find them here.

Open newsroom

Here are a couple of stories we are working on at the moment — if you have some expertise or insight to offer, please get in touch.

  • The story of the Liverpool University Settlement, and the history of racism towards mixed-race communities on Merseyside. Email mollie@livpost.co.uk about that.

  • The controversy over Hoylake Beach on the Wirral. Email harry@livpost.co.uk about that one.

Letters from readers

Thrilled to be a new subscriber to the Post! Hajera

I've just subscribed to the Post in the hope of encouraging a brave attitude to investigative journalism. Paul

I like the fine writing and the depth of storytelling, such a change from consuming normal social media or annoying advert saturated newspapers, Sean