Fifth day of manhunt for chemical attack suspect as questions raised over asylum status

The government is facing pressure over the decision to allow Abdul Ezedi asylum after his application was rejected twice before, Rachel Younger reports

The manhunt for suspected chemical attacker Abdul Ezedi is in its fifth day as the government was pressed over why his asylum seeker application was granted despite being rejected twice and having been convicted of a sexual offence.

Ezedi has been on the run since Wednesday after a 31-year-old mother, believed to be known to the suspect, was attacked alongside her two daughters, with a corrosive alkaline substance in Clapham, south London.

She remains in a critical but stable condition 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”.

On Sunday, police said the suspect used a “very strong concentrated corrosive substance” in the attack.

Ezedi at King's Cross Underground Station Credit: Met Police handout

Police investigators believe there are people who know Ezedi’s whereabouts and have not come forward.

The Met has warned anyone found assisting him will face arrest.

Ezedi, who is thought to have arrived in the UK from Afghanistan on the back of a lorry in 2016, was granted asylum after he claimed to have converted to Christianity.

When pressed on why Ezedi was granted the right to stay in the UK on Monday prime minister Rishi Sunak avoided answering directly but said: "I've been very clear when it comes to illegal migrants when someone comes here illegally they should not be able to stay."

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak asked why Abdul Ezedi was allowed to stay in the UK

He said the Rwanda scheme his government is trying to get through Parliament would prevent people from staying in the country illegally while their applications were processed.

One of the bystanders who came to the aid of the three-year-old girl during the attack told the BBC she thought the child "was going to die in my arms".

She said: "The sound, the thud, the scream, that's when I realised it was a little girl being slammed to the ground, like a WWF wrestling move.

"Then I saw two men jump on the suspect and try to pin him down, before he managed to get free and run off. So I just grabbed the three-year-old girl and took her into my arms before rushing her into the nearby hotel, where her older sister and mother were. Her mother was hysterical."

The force said the last sighting of Ezedi, who is from Newcastle, was at 9.33pm at Tower Hill Underground station in east London on January 31, shortly after the attack in Clapham.

Police have released several images of him following the attack with a large wound on his face.

It comes as questions have been raised over how the suspect, who was granted asylum in the UK after two failed attempts, was able to stay in the country despite being convicted of a sex offence.

A source at the National Crime Agency also told The Times they were assisting in the search and investigating if criminal gangs could be helping Ezedi remain in hiding.

Police said Ezedi left Newcastle in the early hours of Wednesday and travelled south to London and was in the Tooting area by around 6.30am.

Abdul Ezedi seen filmed on CCTV in Tesco on Caledonian Road, buying a bottle of water

His vehicle was seen again in Croydon, south London, at around 4.30pm and by around 7pm he was in Streatham.

Ezedi 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 train at Clapham South Underground station, and by 8pm he was at King’s Cross Tube station.

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

Anyone with information about Abdul Ezedi is asked to call 020 7175 2784 or for an immediate sighting dial 999. To remain anonymous, please contact the independent charity Crimestoppers.

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