An explosion at the hospital: how events in Liverpool unfolded

David Perry, a taxi driver, was working in Liverpool on Sunday morning when he was called at around 10am to collect a fare from Rutland Avenue – nothing remarkable.

He arrived at the address shortly before 11am and collected the man from one of the looming Victorian properties on the leafy road near attractive Sefton Park.

The fare requested to be taken to the Liverpool Women’s hospital, a centre of expertise for the health of women and their babies, less than a 10-minute drive away on the edge of the city’s Georgian quarter.

Video footage shows the taxi – a black estate or people-carrier adorned with a cab firm logo – arriving on the roundabout outside the hospital reception entrance, and, just as it slows to a halt, an eruption of white smoke and debris explodes from the vehicle.

David Perry
David Perry. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

The explosive device detonated at 10.59am and around 10 seconds later the driver is seen staggering from the car, stumbling at first before moving to the rear of the vehicle. An individual in a high-visibility vest who witnessed the explosion is then seen rushing to his aid. Shortly after, the car was a ball of flames.

Emergency services attended the scene within minutes – the ambulance service arrived at 11.04am – and Merseyside fire and rescue put out the fire. Police have said it quickly became apparent that the passenger was still in the vehicle and was dead.

Perry was taken to hospital where he was treated for serious but non-life-threatening injuries. He has since been discharged.

Carl Bessant was inside the hospital, where his partner had just had a baby, at the time of the blast. He told the BBC: “We were so close and she was feeding the baby when it happened. We heard a loud bang and looked out of the window. We saw the car on fire and someone jump out … screaming, and there was someone inside the car.”

Alex Rain, a student, witnessed the explosion. He told the Guardian: “I parked my car at the end of Mulgrave Street just off Upper Parliament Street, which is parallel to the women’s hospital. I got out the car and heard a really loud, deep bang, much louder than fireworks I heard on bonfire night.

“I went into my car to get my backpack to walk to uni and when I turned back around to set off, I could see lots of dark smoke coming from above the hospital.”

Armed officers went to two addresses in the city on Sunday afternoon. The first was the address in Rutland Avenue where Perry had picked up his fare. The road was closed off at both ends, residents were evacuated and police cars and vans parked bumper to bumper.

The police later revealed that “significant” items were found in the property – understood to be evidence that led them to tentatively conclude that the explosion in the taxi was caused by an “improvised explosive device”.

Meanwhile, another address in Sutcliffe Street, in the Kensington area of Liverpool, one of the more deprived districts of the city, was being raided. Three men were ultimately arrested at the property – aged 29, 26 and 21 – while a fourth was arrested in the same area on Monday.

Sutcliffe Street resident Keith Ford witnessed the raid, which he said took place around 2.30pm.

The 47-year-old production operative said: “A man came out of the property that they were pointing the guns at … He came to the front door, police shouted at him, saying, ‘Hands up in the air’ – then walked to the pub on the end of the corner.”

Ford described the man as having dark hair, dark trousers and a blue T-shirt. Ford and some of his neighbours were evacuated from Sutcliffe Street and were allowed to return on Monday morning.

The searches at Rutland Avenue continued overnight and several vehicles remain in place.

Charlotte Pennington, who lives on a street neighbouring Rutland Avenue, said that she walked past with her dog around 2pm on Sunday and it was “ridiculous”, with a police cordon in place and ambulances lining the road.

She said: “The whole street was just a line of police cars, back-to-back police cars. It was all blocked off. There were ambulances lining the road, police cars, Matrix vans flying down.”

She left to stay at her mother’s house for a few hours, but when she returned around 8pm, there was still a heavy police presence. She later heard that some residents on Rutland Avenue were evacuated from their houses around 1am.

On Monday morning, police officers formally declared a terrorist incident and revealed they knew the identity of the passenger and believed he built the explosive device. The four men arrested in the Kensington area of the city were “associates” of the passenger, police said.

Speaking to journalists at Merseyside police headquarters on Monday morning, the assistant chief constable Russ Jackson, from Counter-Terrorism Policing North West said: “It is not clear what the motivation for this incident is.

“Our inquiries indicate that an improvised explosive device has been manufactured and our assumption so far is that this 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. We cannot at this time draw any connection with this, but it is a line of inquiry we are pursuing.”

He added: “Although the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident, and counter-terrorism policing are continuing with the investigation.” He told journalists that police knew the identity of the attacker but would not confirm it at this stage.

Later on Monday, the government confirmed that the terrorism threat level had been raised to severe from substantial.

The home secretary, Priti Patel, said the threat level was in part raised because there had been two terrorist incidents in the space of a month – the other being the fatal attack on the MP David Amess.

She told broadcasters she could not expand “for obvious reasons”, but added: “I should just conclude my remarks by saying that our security and intelligence services prevent all sorts of acts, day in, day out. And of course, they understand the landscape, they see context, they see all sorts of things that keep our country safe and secure every single day, and that work will continue.”