A victim of the Westminster terror attacks has told how he suffers from nightmares and fears going outside since he was mowed down near Parliament Square.
Francisco Lopes, 26, was thrown over the bonnet of terrorist Khalid Masood’s car seconds before the jihadi ran into the Houses of Parliament and killed Pc Keith Palmer.
The Portuguese national, who has lived in the UK for 14 years, has been left with limited use of his left hand and has been signed off work since the attack.
But he says the greatest damage he has suffered is mentally, having nightmares, flash backs and a phobia about being outside in busy places.
Francisco, who works in a shop at St Thomas’ Hospital, said: “I just can’t escape the horror that happened on that day. When I close my eyes I have flash backs of the point when I turned around and saw the car about to hit me, the sounds of people screaming and the chaos around me.
“I often have nightmares. The other night I dreamt I was embroiled in another terrorist attack. I was waiting for the tube and these men started pushing people onto the train track as the train was coming. This is the sort of thing I dream about these days.
“I am always scared something will happen to me. I try to be like I was, which was scared of nothing, but what happened changed me. I get scared when I think about what happened and I’m terrified that I could easily have died. I am scared to go outside and I particularly fear busy places. I’m scared of traffic and haven’t been on my bike since the attack. I just don’t feel safe as I’m worried something bad could happen again. My life is completely different and I just want my normal life back.”
Francisco, who lives in North London, is launching legal action against Khalid Masood’s insurers so he can afford counselling and rehabilitation.
Reliving the horrors of March 22 this year, when five innocent people were killed, Francisco said: “I heard a scream and turned around to see a car a couple of metres away from me. I had no idea what was going on. I put out my hand to try and protect myself and was thrown over the bonnet of the car.
“As I lay on the floor, my legs and hand in agony, I thought ’what has just happened?’ I was scared I was going to die or not be able to walk again. Somebody came to assist me and told me not to move. I was too scared to look at my legs as I was worried they would be mangled and broken and didn’t want to look.
“There was a lady to my left who was unconscious and a woman to my right who was screaming how she couldn’t feel her legs. It was a horrific scene and extremely traumatic experience. It was like being in a horror movie. It was one of the worst things I have ever experienced.”
Francisco was one of the last three victims struck by Masood’s car before he ran into the Houses of Parliament.
He suffered gashes on both his legs and severe cuts to his hand. He will need many hours of physiotherapy to get the full use of his hand back.
Patrick Maguire, a serious injury specialist lawyer from Slater and Gordon, which is representing Francisco, said: “Francisco was one of the many innocent victims of the horrific terrorist attack who was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He has been both physically and mentally scarred by what he was put through and witnessed that day, resulting in him being unable to work.
“The priority is to ensure that Francisco gets access to the best rehabilitation in order to rebuild his life following this terrible ordeal. It is necessary to secure funds to ensure he gets access to this rehabilitation together with reimbursement for his financial losses. We are currently working towards this”.