Survivor still receives abuse from online trolls five years after terror attack
A survivor of the Westminster terror attack has spoken of the “incredibly disconcerting” abuse he receives from online trolls almost five years on from the atrocity.
Travis Frain, 24, was on a university trip to London aged 19 with his friends when Khalid Masood struck him in a car on March 22 2017.
He flew into the air after hitting the bonnet of the vehicle, suffering a broken leg and and numerous other injuries including a shrapnel wound and broken fingers.
Recalling the day ahead of its fifth anniversary, he told the PA news agency he initially thought the attacker had lost control behind the wheel before the sound of gunshots made him realise the “much more sinister” nature of the incident.
It could have been the adrenaline, could have been the shock. All I know is bizarrely I was up and walking after I was hit by the car Travis Frain
He said: “My initial sort of thought was that it might have been someone losing control, for example, of the car, but then it became clear that wasn’t the case pretty soon after because, of course, the car carried on driving.
“We heard the gunshots and it became very clear quite quickly that it was something much more sinister.”
Despite his injuries, Mr Frain managed to pick himself up and hobble away before being taken to King’s College Hospital.
“It could have been the adrenaline, could have been the shock. All I know is bizarrely I was up and walking after I was hit by the car,” he said.
“That’s something that even today I don’t have an explanation for.”
The Prince of Wales meeting Travis Frain (Angela Frain/PA) (PA Media)
Footage of him walking away from the scene surfaced online, apparently sparking a torrent of misinformation, abuse and death threats from people accusing him of faking his injuries.
Mr Frain revealed the abuse has persisted over the past five years, especially when he speaks publicly about the incident, with the last message being sent as recently as November.
“Every time I do an interview like this it tends to get their backs up and a few of them come out of the woodwork and send those sort of messages,” he said.
“YouTube was littered with all these sorts of debunking videos saying that I’d faked my involvement or my injuries… and we were all paid actors.”
Mr Frain said: “You’ve received quite bad injuries, you’re immobile. Then to be receiving threatening messages like that is incredibly disconcerting. It’s a really bizarre situation.”
He added: “I think a lot of the people who are sending these messages might already be off the deep end so to speak.
Five years sounds like a very long time, but in many ways, it feels like it was yesterday Travis Frain
“But I’d just say to them ‘get in touch’ and I’d say ‘let’s have a conversation about it’… Rather than sitting behind anonymous accounts on the internet and sending dodgy messages to people who, quite frankly, don’t know how to respond to them.
“Sometimes it’s conspiracy theorists. A lot of the time they seem pretty nonsensical.”
He said despite the challenges, he has managed to make progress in coming to terms with the atrocity by educating himself about the complex causes of terrorism.
But he added that the impact of the atrocity “never leaves” him, and warned that extremism remains one of the biggest threats to the UK.
“Five years sounds like a very long time, but in many ways, it feels like it was yesterday. I think it’s just taking stock of how far you’ve come, and how far still to go,” he said, speaking near Westminster Bridge, the site of the attack, in central London on Monday.
“I think to be honest with you, it never leaves you.”
The Lancashire-based PhD student has now set up the Resilience in Unity Project, a counter-radicalisation platform featuring the voices of terrorism survivors, the response to which he said has been “terrific”.
Some 60 testimonies have been recorded so far from people who have volunteered to share their experiences with the hope of helping to prevent future attacks, he said.
“Terrorism isn’t going away any time soon,” Mr Frain said. “Islamist extremism remains one of the biggest threats in the UK, but we’re also seeing issues like the far right on the rise and a multitude of different motivations.”
He added: “It’s never easy seeing yet another attack on the news and I think you always get that sort of sick feeling.
“But now, hopefully, we can help to mitigate the effects of these attacks.”