Manhunt for London chemical attack suspect amid row over criminal past and asylum status

Afghanistan-born Abdul Ezedi was granted asylum in the UK after two failed attempts

Powered by automated translation

Police are searching for a suspect who threw an alkaline substance at a mother and her daughters in south London, leaving two of them with potentially life-changing injuries, as questions are raised over his asylum status.

Afghanistan-born Abdul Ezedi, 35, who lives in the Newcastle area, in north-east England, was granted asylum in the UK after two failed applications and despite being convicted of a sexual offence in 2018, two years after his arrival.

Questions are now being raised about that process.

It has been reported that Ezedi arrived in Britain on a lorry in 2016 and converted to Christianity before his successful asylum claim.

Former Met Police chief superintendent Dal Babu said his conversion will feature in the "inevitable" review of his case.

He told The National: “I think there is a debate at the moment about whether these aspects of human rights will be challenged by the government.

"And I think there is a wider question here about the details, which we don’t really know at the moment. What I don’t understand is he had two claims which were unsuccessful. But his third claim was successful, so there may be questions to ask the Home Office around what were the details around the first two? Was there a change before the third claim?"

Ezedi, who was described by Metropolitan Police Superintendent Gabriel Cameron as having “significant injuries to the right side of his face”, was last seen at a supermarket in north London on Wednesday evening.

The sighting came a day after an attack on a 31-year-old woman, who is believed to be known to Ezedi, who was with her daughters, aged three and eight. They remain in hospital in a stable condition.

Miriam Cates, co-chairman of the New Conservative group of MPs, said the case shows the “urgent need to tighten up our asylum processes”, while former home office minister Sir John Hayes intends to write to James Cleverly, the Home Secretary, to seek an urgent review of the asylum rules.

Local MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the attack raised troubling issues about the normalisation of violence against women in society.

“The reasons why he was given asylum, we don’t know. But we do know there may have been some serious issues in terms of how the criminal justice system processes the particular issue of his particular sex offence. That may have been an issue,” she told Radio 4 on Friday.

“I am saying the prime issue is violence against women and girls, because that’s something that is carried out by all people, whether they subscribe to a particular faith, whether they have a particular ethnicity, whether they were born in this country or not.

“It’s something that is right across our society and we need to look at prevention, because ultimately it is better than a cure.”

Police released an image of the last-known sighting of Ezedi which places him on Caledonian Road, in Islington, at 8.48pm on Wednesday.

There had been a heightened police presence, including unmarked cars and police vans, in the area.

Ezedi allegedly threw the younger child to the ground in the attack in Lessar Avenue, near Clapham Common, at about 7.25pm.

In his attempt to drive away from the scene, the attacker crashed into a stationary vehicle and made off on foot.

Earlier, Mr Cameron said the force was working in collaboration with Northumbria Police because Ezedi “could be going back” to Newcastle.

Ezedi is believed to have travelled from Newcastle on the day of the attack but detectives are unsure as to what led to the incident.

Mr Cameron said that it was a “horrific crime” against a “vulnerable female”.

The suspect is believed to have used a corrosive alkaline substance, but the officer said he did not know if it was a household product that was used.

Products such as bleach and oven cleaners are alkaline substances.

Three members of the public who came to the aid of the family, two in their thirties and one in her fifties, have all been discharged from hospital with minor burns.

The force said five officers who responded to the incident were also treated and have now left hospital.

One witness to the attack, bus driver Shannon Christi, said she was affected by the substance while trying to help the woman and two children outside her home.

She said: “I heard a bang and I heard someone saying 'help'. As I ran outside I've seen this guy throwing a child on the floor, he picked her up and threw her again.

“So, at that point, I ran in and I grabbed her and took her into my block.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley described the incident as a “ghastly attack”.

Mr Cleverly, who condemned the incident, said: “My thoughts are with them [the victims] and the brave members of the public and police who intervened.

“I urge the public to support the Metropolitan Police's appeal and to come forward if they have any information.”

Police in England and Wales recorded 472 violent and robbery offences involving a corrosive substance in the year to March 2023, the latest available figures from the Office for National Statistics show.

There were 525 recorded in the previous 12 months.

Updated: February 05, 2024, 6:52 AM