Fatal car explosion outside hospital was terrorist attack, British police say

Armed police officer in heavy gear
An armed police officer holds a breaching shotgun, used to blast the hinges off a door, outside a home in Liverpool, England, on Monday.
(Peter Byrne / Press Assn.)

British police say an explosion in a taxi outside a hospital, which killed one person, was caused by an improvised explosive device and is being treated as a terrorist incident, but the motive for the attack remains unclear.

Russ Jackson, the head of Counterterrorism Policing in northwest England, said Sunday’s explosion at Liverpool Women’s Hospital was caused by “the ignition of an explosive device” that was brought into the vehicle by a passenger.

The male passenger died in the explosion and fire that followed, and the taxi driver was injured.


Jackson said that “inquiries will now continue to seek to understand how the device was built, the motivation for the incident and to understand if anyone else was involved in it.”

Three men in their 20s were arrested in Liverpool under Britain’s Terrorism Act on Sunday, and a fourth was detained Monday, Jackson said. All are believed to be “associates” of the dead passenger, police said.

Suspicions were aroused by the timing of the explosion — just before 11 a.m. on Remembrance Sunday, the moment people across Britain hold services in memory of those killed in wars.

British prosecutors say the suspect in the fatal stabbing of British lawmaker David Amess had ‘religious and ideological motivations’ for the attack.

Oct. 21, 2021

Jackson said investigators had not found a link to remembrance events, “but it is a line of inquiry we are pursuing.”

“Although the motivation for this incident is yet to be understood, given all the circumstances, it has been declared a terrorist incident,” he said at a news briefing.

He said the passenger had been picked up by the cab a 10-minute drive away from the hospital and asked to be taken there. The driver, named in local media reports as David Perry, managed to escape from the car before the explosion occurred. He was treated at the hospital and released.


Police said officers had searched two addresses in Liverpool linked to the passenger and found “significant items” at one of them.

Liverpool Mayor Joanne Anderson said the driver had locked the doors of his cab so that the passenger couldn’t get out of the car.

“The taxi driver, in his heroic efforts, has managed to divert what could have been an absolutely awful disaster at the hospital,” she told the BBC.

Johnson also said the driver appeared to have behaved “with incredible presence of mind and bravery.”

Nick Aldworth, a former senior terrorism investigator in Britain, said the taxi appeared to have sustained “a lot of fire damage with very little blast damage.”


He said that “whatever was in that vehicle was either a low yield or didn’t work properly, or possibly an incendiary. So I think it’s very much open to debate at the moment about what has happened.”

On Monday, the British government raised the country’s official threat level from terrorism from “substantial” to “severe,” meaning that an attack is highly likely. Home Secretary Priti Patel told reporters that the threat level increase came in the context of Sunday’s explosion being the second terrorist incident in the space of a month.

Last month, Conservative Party lawmaker David Amess was stabbed to death in what police said was an act of terrorism by a supporter of Islamic State.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson condemned the “sickening attack” at Liverpool Women’s Hospital and told reporters 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,” he said.