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Woolwich killing: Woman who berated knifemen hailed as a hero

Reuters

The woman who gave two bloodied knifemen a stern talking to has been hailed as a hero for embodying the "spirit of London".

An undated photograph of Ingrid Loyau-Kennett. (AFP)

A middle-aged Cub Scout mistress who gave two bloodied knifemen a stern talking to as a British soldier lay dead on the street was hailed as a hero for embodying the "spirit of London".

And as some in the capital complained about immigrants after a killing blamed on British Muslim converts with Nigerian roots, it turned out the woman held up as the new face of civic pride in Europe's multi-ethnic metropolis was herself born in France.

Named by the prime minister from the steps of No 10 Downing Street, Ingrid Loyau-Kennett (48) said her bus was halted by the incident on Wednesday. She got off to offer first aid to the man lying in the street and found herself confronted by his killer, still wielding a bloody knife and a meat cleaver.

"I was not scared because he was not drunk, he was not on drugs. He was normal. I could speak to him and he wanted to speak and that's what we did," the former teacher from south-west England told the Guardian.

Film of Londoners calmly standing by, going about their business, tending to the victim or – in the case of Loyau-Kennett – remonstrating with the killers, captured imaginations of a city steeped in a stoical self-image of the World War II "spirit of the Blitz" and numerous guerrilla attacks since.

"That's the spirit of London," declared the mayor, Boris Johnson.

In fact, like many among the city's eight-million people, Loyau-Kennett was only passing through, visiting her children as she returned from a holiday in France to her home in rural Cornwall, where she helps run a Cub Scout pack for boys aged eight to 10.

Playing down her heroics
Looking relaxed and playing down her heroics in an interview on national breakfast television, she told ITV her main thought had been to keep the men talking until police could get to the scene, near Woolwich army barracks in south-east London.

"I wanted him to concentrate on me and make sure he doesn't have a funny idea," she said in French-accented English. Her son, who helped make her a star by tweeting her name after pictures appeared in the media of her talking to the suspect, told Reuters she moved to Britain as a young woman.

"I had taken a 53 bus to get to Parliament Square, where I was going to meet my children and walk to Victoria coach station before getting the coach to Helston in Cornwall," she told the Guardian.

"I was sitting on the lower deck and the bus stopped. I could clearly see a body in the road and a crashed car. I trained as a first aider ... so I asked someone to watch my bag and then got off to see if I could help."

What she found was an apparently lifeless man and two others with weapons: "I thought, okay," she said.

"I could see a butcher's knife and an axe – that's what he had – and blood. I thought, what the heck? I thought obviously he was a bit excited and the thing was just to talk to him."

Prime Minister David Cameron picked up on her response when one of the men told her their aim was to "start a war" in London: "She replied 'You're going to lose. It's only you versus many'," Cameron said.

"She spoke for us all." – Reuters

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