Detectives are hunting a suspect after a mother and her three-year-old daughter suffered burns in a chemical attack - as it emerged the man is understood to be a convicted sex offender who was later granted asylum.
An eight-year-old girl was also hurt after the family of three were doused with an alkaline substance in Clapham, south London, on Wednesday night, in a shocking attack that also injured passers-by and first responders.
Witnesses have told how the mother, 31, screamed for help after the man – said to be known to the family – launched the substance and slammed the toddler to the ground “like a ragdoll” before fleeing the scene.
Metropolitan Police detectives revealed the suspect is Abdul Shokoor Ezedi, 35, from Northumbria.
And as the manhunt was stepped up, it emerged that Ezedi was understood to have been convicted of a sexual offence in 2018, before being granted asylum in 2021 or 2022. He had previously been twice refused asylum after arriving from his native Afghanistan in 2016.
On Thursday night, MPs were calling for a review of the asylum rules, including Miriam Cates who told The Telegraph the case is “everybody’s worst nightmare”. She added: “This man should never have been granted asylum in this country and we need to get to the bottom of how he was able to be granted leave to remain.”
Former home office minister Sir John Hayes said he would be writing to the Home Secretary on the issue. He told the newspaper: “This case provides an opportunity not only to review the criteria for granting asylum but also for how we deal with those who are known criminals.”
Members of the public were being warned not to approach Ezedi, who has significant injuries to the right side of his face, and to dial 999.
He was last spotted on CCTV in a Tesco in the Caledonian Road area of north London where he was seen buying a bottle of water, and it is thought he could be heading back to the Newcastle area where he is from.
Superintendent Gabriel Cameron said it was a “horrific crime” against a “vulnerable female”, adding: “We will catch him, I’m wholeheartedly confident.”
Officers have described the incident as a “targeted attack”, confirming Ezedi is thought to be known to the mother, although police do not yet know the nature of their relationship.
The three victims were in a stable condition in hospital on Thursday, although the mother and toddler could be left with potentially life-changing injuries, police said.
Witnesses have claimed the attacker was arguing with the mother in the street after getting out of a car in Lessar Avenue. Shortly afterwards, she began screaming, “My eyes, my eyes – call the police,” it was reported.
Shannon Christi, 35, said she ran outside on hearing the mother scream for help, before seeing a man in black throwing a child to the floor twice “like he was in the wrestling ring”.
Without hesitation, she ran towards him, grabbed the three-year-old girl off the floor and brought her inside to safety. Her partner ran in his slippers after the suspect, chasing him away down the street.
She told The Independent: “I heard screaming, ‘help, help’, and came outside. I saw the man throwing the girl on the floor like he was in a wrestling ring. He was angry.
“I rushed in and grabbed her. I didn’t see what he looked like or where he went I was focused on her. I poured water on her and called the ambulance.
“The child was crying. She told me her name and she was three but I couldn’t hear her through the tears.”
Another eyewitness described the horrifying moment the younger girl was slammed to the floor twice like a “ragdoll” by the suspect – who had climbed out of the same car as the mother and two girls.
“It was horrendous, I have not slept a wink since. I saw what I thought was a normal accident but then I saw him come out walk to the back passenger side and take a child out,” she told The Independent.
“He lifted the young child up, extended his arms up above his head and threw her to the floor like a ragdoll. I thought she was dead, everyone was screaming ‘stop’ and ‘call the police’.”
The attacker then attempted to escape in a car but crashed into another vehicle before he made off on foot in the direction of Clapham Common.
The family are thought to have been staying at the nearby Belvedere Hotel, where staff confirmed they are supporting the guests affected.
“It’s frightening. This is a ghastly attack. But everything we know points this to being two people who know each other. It’s not random,” Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Mark Rowley told BBC Radio London, adding that the mother and youngest daughter’s burns were “potentially substantial”.
The suspect is believed to have used a corrosive alkaline substance but Supt Cameron said he did not know whether it was a household product such as bleach or oven cleaner.
Police were called at 7.25pm and five officers were treated and have since left hospital after they were injured responding to the attack.
Sir Mark also paid tribute to three women, two in their thirties and one in her fifties, who attended hospital with minor burns after they bravely came to aid the mother and her children, and a man in his fifties who was treated at the scene.
“All these members of the public, and my officers, deserve enormous recognition and praise for coming to the aid of this woman and children in what must have been a terrifying scenario,” he said.
“I also want to commend nearby hotel staff after victims and officers sought refuge and water there following the incident.”
He added: “Our investigation is in its early stages and we are working to establish why this awful incident has happened.
“Officers from across the Met are working with partner agencies and forces to locate and arrest the man. While this appears a targeted attack, he is a dangerous individual and we urgently need to find him.”
London mayor Sadiq Khan said the incident was “truly shocking”, adding that corrosive substances are “offensive weapons”.
“Just as we are taking action, in terms of a public health approach, towards guns and knives, so we have got to do the same with this kind of stuff as well,” he told BBC Radio 4’s World At One.
For almost a year, Ezedi had lived in accommodation provided by Action Foundation, which houses and provides support to migrants. Chief executive Duncan McAuley said: “We’d like to first of all express our sympathy to the people involved in this shocking incident.
“We can confirm that Abdul Shokoor Ezedi was supported in rented property through our Action Letting project for refugees who have been granted leave to remain in the UK between the dates April 29, 2021 and March 2, 2022.
“We understand he then moved to other homeless accommodation in Newcastle.”