Triumph turned to terror for the owners of Ponsanooth Village Stores after their day out at a Westminster awards ceremony was overtaken by the attack on Parliament on Wednesday.

Michelle Firminger and Ben Carter were at the Countryside Alliance Awards ceremony in the Palace of Westminster, where they were named the best village shop in the UK in 2016, and afterwards they had planned to tour the building with MP George Eustice.

Mr Eustice had been at the awards ceremony, in a room overlooking the Thames, but had gone for a meeting and arranged to meet Michelle and Ben later to for a tour of Parliament. They were on the way to meet his secretary ahead of the tour when the attacker struck outside the building, mowing down pedestrians in a car before stabbing a policeman at the palace gate.

Michelle said: "We were going through a passageway and everything went off. A chap in no uniform but carrying a gun came charging up behind us, shouting 'get in, get in.'

"The next 25 minutes or half an hour was us being taken through passageways, collecting more people as we went. We ended up in the central lobby area, about 400 or 500."

The group was kept in the lobby until about 6pm when they were led by armed police and in single file to Westminster Hall, near the front of the building, where they were told they would have to wait to be let out in small groups as the area outside was now a crime scene.

Michelle said it was very strange how 20 mins of "excitement and celebration" turned into an experience that was "incredibly frightening, really.

"It was amazing, we were sat in a room with little idea of what was going on."

She was also very thankful when Mr Eustice managed to get hold of her mobile number to call and check she was alright.

And she added: "It wasn't quite the day we were expecting, but thank goodness we were safe and quite probably we were in the safest place, at the time, with all the police there."

Michelle and Ben were eventually able to return to Ponsanooth, with an award and a plaque to go on the shop.

Michelle said of the award: "It's a huge privilege really. It's an award very much for the whole village.

"Because of the help and support and the way that the village community has taken us into their hearts.

"It's a good reflection of the community and what it stands for."

Mr Eustice told the Packet: “I congratulate Michelle Firminger and her excellent team on their award. It is very well deserved, and I was delighted to be able to meet Michelle in person at the awards ceremony. 

"Unfortunately, Michelle’s visit coincided with the appalling terrorist attack in Westminster on Wednesday afternoon. I spoke to Michelle in the immediate aftermath of the attack, and understand that she was still in the vicinity of Parliament. 

"Since the attack, the mood of the House has been sombre, but unified and resolute. There have been many tributes to the bravery of PC Keith Palmer who was among those murdered. Our thoughts and prayers are with all of those who have lost loved ones in this sickening attack.”