Clapham attacker believed to have 'gone into' river, police say, but no body found yet

Abdul Ezedi was acting differently once he got to Chelsea Bridge, police said, ITV News' Martha Fairlie reports

Some readers may find details in this report distressing.

The man who was on the run after attacking a mother and her two children with a corrosive substance is believed to have "gone into" the River Thames, the Metropolitan Police has said.

While Abdul Ezedi's body may never be found, the force has said that death is the “most probable outcome” if he has gone into the water.

In a briefing at Scotland Yard, Commander Jon Savell said that thousands of cameras with hours and hours of footage had to be watched "meticulously" to work out Ezedi's whereabouts.

The most recent evidence showed Ezedi going onto Chelsea Bridge, but none of the footage "thus far" had shown him leaving the bridge, Mr Savell said.

Commander Jon Savell speaking to the media at Scotland Yard in London. Credit: PA

Ezedi had been following the River Thames, but there appeared to be a "distinct change" in his manner on reaching the bridge, police had noted.

"When he gets to Chelsea Bridge his demeanour appears to change... I would describe him previously as having been walking sort of purposefully, as if he knew where he was going... As he gets onto Chelsea Bridge, he does cross the bridge more than once, and then when he gets back to the centre, he appears to be moving from the railings, back to the pavement, and looking over the edge of the railings," Mr Savell said.

"We didn't know where he'd gone as soon as he fled the scene," Mr Savell added, explaining why it had taken so long for police to track Ezedi down.

The Met also said that the body of the attacker may "never" surface due to the currents in the River Thames.

“At this time of year, the Thames is very fast flowing, very wide and full of lots of snags.

“It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won’t appear for maybe up to a month and it’s not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface.”

Abdul Ezedi was caught on CCTV at 9.51pm on January 31 on Upper Thames Street, London Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Mr Savell thanked the "hundreds" of members of the public who had come forward with information about Ezedi's whereabouts.

Eight warrants have been issued across the country since the attack, and some enquiries will continue to find out exactly what led to the attack.

Despite a nationwide manhunt, Ezedi evaded police after attacking the family with a corrosive alkali substance in Clapham, south London on January 31.

The family were left in hospital, with some of their injuries believed to be life-changing. It is thought the mother may lose sight in her right eye as a result of the attack.

Mr Savell confirmed the woman remained in a “critical but stable condition” in hospital and was still “very poorly and unable to speak” to police.

Police released CCTV footage and photographs as they were trying to find and catch Ezedi, and raided multiple locations up and down England in search for information, including a takeaway in Newcastle where he is believed to have worked.

A £20,000 reward was on offer for information that could lead to Ezedi's arrest.

It was also revealed by police that Ezedi had been in a relationship with the woman he doused in corrosive liquid.

Ezedi came to the UK hidden in a lorry in 2016, and was turned down twice for asylum before successfully appealing against the Home Office rejection by claiming he had converted to Christianity.

A tribunal judge is understood to have ruled in favour of his asylum claim in 2020 after a retired Baptist church minister confirmed he had converted to Christianity, reportedly describing Ezedi as “wholly committed” to his new religion.

What happened on January 31?

Witnesses say they saw a man grab the youngest child from a car and throw her onto the road twice in Lesser Avenue, near Clapham Common. Screams could then be heard from the mother on Wednesday at 7.25pm, they told ITV News.

Shannon Christi told ITV News she heard banging and cries for help, prompting her to run out of her home. What she witnessed made her "see red", she said.

Police attend the scene in Lessar Avenue near Clapham Common, south London, where the mother and her children were hurt Credit: Metropolitan Police/PA

Ms Christi said: "I ran outside and saw this man take a little girl out the car and throw her to the floor twice. I ran over and grabbed the child and bought her into my house.

"He ran down the road and my partner chased him down. I saw another little girl crying so I took her in. Then, I saw the mum screaming I can't see. I just saw red. I had tunnel vision. The little girl was just crying."

Ms Christi, who began to feel a burning sensation in her mouth and on her skin, leading to her being taken to hospital, said the incident was "traumatising".

A timeline of Abdul Ezedi's movements

Early Wednesday, January 31: The wanted man left Newcastle in the “very, very early hours” of Wednesday and travelled south to the capital.

6.30am: Edezi arrived in the Tooting area by around 6.30am.

4.30pm: A sighting of his vehicle was reported at about 4.30pm in Croydon.

7pm: By about this time he was in Streatham.

7.25pm: The attack took place before he allegedly attempted to drive away from the scene, crashing into a stationary vehicle and fleeing on foot.

7.30pm: Minutes after the attack Ezedi boarded a tube at Clapham South underground station.

8pm: He was at King’s Cross tube station.

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

9pm: He got on a Victoria line tube at 9pm heading south

9.10pm: Arrives at Victoria Station on the Victoria line

9.16pm: Leaves Victoria eastbound on the District Line

9.30pm: He exited Tower Hill Underground station.

Police then released a series of CCTV images and videos as they attempted to track his whereabouts over the following week.

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