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Search for Clapham chemical attacker enters third day

Abdul Ezedi is on-the-run (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Abdul Ezedi is on-the-run (Metropolitan Police/PA)

The search for suspected chemical attacker Abdul Ezedi has entered its third day as police follow up on “significant and important” evidence found in searches.

Police have called for the 35-year-old from the Newcastle area – who is described as having very “significant injuries to the right side of his face” – to hand himself in after going on the run following Wednesday’s attack in Clapham, south London.

A 31-year-old mother, believed to be known to Ezedi, was attacked with a corrosive alkaline substance and remains “very poorly” and sedated in hospital, with her injuries thought to be “life-changing”.

The injuries to her daughters, aged three and eight, are “not likely to be life-changing”.

Metropolitan Police Commander Jon Savell told reporters outside Scotland Yard on Friday that “significant and important pieces of evidence” were recovered in searches carried out in east London and Newcastle on Thursday night.

Two empty containers labelled with corrosive warnings were found at an address in Newcastle, and forensic tests are checking if they held the substance used during the attack.

Mr Savell said: “In terms of our manhunt for Ezedi, we’ve got a large team of very experienced detectives leading the manhunt, using all the tactics that you would expect us to use, lots of officers out on the ground.

“We’re working very closely with colleagues from Transport for London, British Transport Police and our colleagues in Northumbria Police as well.

“Last night, five search warrants were executed – two in east London and three up in Newcastle. We’ve recovered some significant and important pieces of evidence which will help with our investigation.”

Making a direct appeal to Ezedi, Mr Savell said: “Abdul, you clearly have got some very significant injuries.

“We’ve seen the images. You need some medical help, so do the right thing and hand yourself in.”

The wanted man left Newcastle in the “very, very early hours” of Wednesday and travelled south to the capital and was in the Tooting area by around 6.30am, police say.

There was a further sighting of his vehicle at about 4.30pm in Croydon and by about 7pm he was in Streatham.

Ezedi also allegedly threw the younger child to the ground during the attack at 7.25pm, before attempting to drive away from the scene, crashing into a stationary vehicle and fleeing on foot.

Minutes later he boarded a tube at Clapham South underground station, and by 8pm he was at King’s Cross tube station.

At 8.42pm, Ezedi was captured on CCTV in Tesco on the Caledonian Road, pictured with a “fairly significant facial injury” buying a bottle of water, before leaving and heading right.

He got on a Victoria line tube at 9pm heading south, the last confirmed sighting.

Friday’s update came after it emerged Ezedi, who is believed to be from Afghanistan, was convicted of a sexual offence in 2018 and given a suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown Court.

The Crown Prosecution Service confirmed he was sentenced on January 9 of that year after pleading guilty to one charge of sexual assault and one of exposure.

Ezedi was put on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.

He was granted asylum after two failed attempts, having reportedly travelled to the UK on a lorry in 2016, it is believed.

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Ezedi was allowed to stay in the country after a priest confirmed he had converted to Christianity and was “wholly committed” to his new religion, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

An asylum seeker can claim asylum in the UK on the basis of religious persecution in their native country.

It is not yet known which Christian denomination the person who reportedly assisted Ezedi was from.

The Church of England said it is currently not aware of any links to its churches, with a spokesperson adding that it is “the role of the Home Office, and not the Church, to vet asylum seekers and judge the merits of their individual cases”.

In November 2021, Iraqi-born Emad Al Swealmeen, 32, died from a blast and subsequent fire after his homemade bomb detonated in a taxi outside Liverpool Women’s Hospital.

He went to considerable lengths to stay in the UK, including converting to Christianity to support his failed asylum claim.

Police say three members of the public who came to the aid of the family during Wednesday’s attack, two in their 30s and one in her 50s, have all been discharged from hospital with minor burns.

Five officers who responded to the incident were also treated and have now left hospital.

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

She told of seeing a man throwing a child on the floor, before hearing the mother saying: “I can’t see, I can’t see.”

As well as the 11 people taken to hospital, a man in his 50s, who also helped, declined hospital treatment for minor injuries, police said.

Bilal Khan, owner of Billy’s Garage in Byker, near where Ezedi had lived, said the wanted man had been “persistent” when trying to buy a car off him last summer.

Mr Khan said: “He approached me last year asking if I had a car for sale. We had one which he was interested in and I told him the price. He was a very persistent type of guy, he doesn’t let things go easily.”

Mr Khan indicated that Ezedi lived in a nearby halfway house.

Home Secretary James Cleverly, who described the attack as “appalling”, 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.”