Police hunting the Clapham chemical attack suspect, Abdul Ezedi, say they believe he is dead after going into the River Thames at Chelsea Bridge four hours after he left a woman severely injured.
Scotland Yard said Ezedi’s body had not been found but he was last seen close to the River Thames. Officers had been looking for the 35-year-old since Wednesday 31 January when he was suspected of using a strong alkaline substance in an attack on a mother and her daughters, aged three and eight. The mother, 31, is still in hospital in an induced coma.
Detectives had used CCTV to track Ezedi’s movements after the attack in Clapham, south London just before 7.30pm.
On Friday, Commander Jon Savell said CCTV tracked Ezedi to Chelsea Bridge. Up to this point his demeanour had been calm, but just before 11.28pm cameras show him agitated, peering over the railing, and then disappearing from view: “It is our main working hypothesis that he has now gone in the water.”
Savell said they had looked at the angles of the cameras covering the bridge as well as footage from cameras from three buses passing the scene at that point: “There’s no sighting of him coming off the bridge.”
After the attack Ezedi went by tube to King’s Cross, then got back on to London’s underground network, emerging at 9.33pm at Tower Hill underground. That was the last time his bank card was used, with his mobile having been left in a car at the scene of the attack.
Savell said: “He is a man who had just carried out the most horrific attack, and was suffering from significant injuries himself which must have been causing him an extraordinary amount of pain.
“It is just over four miles from Tower Hill, where he was seen leaving the tube station, to Chelsea Bridge. He walks purposefully. Halfway across Chelsea Bridge he pauses and paces back and forth towards the railings, as well as looking over them, this is a change in behaviour. Then he is lost from sight.”
Det Supt Rick Sewart, leading the manhunt, said: “We’ve tracked his movements from Tower Hill … he’s walked over four miles … essentially he’s hugged the Thames river line. When he has got to the area of Chelsea Bridge his behaviour physically appears to change, in so much as he walks up and down, the bridge …
“He can be seen leaning over the railings before there is a loss of sight … he’s no longer visible on the CCTV.”
Asked if that was consistent with Ezedi jumping in, Sewart said: “It is consistent with him going into the water, that is our hypothesis based on the fact he can’t be seen on CCTV any more.”
Sewart, when asked if his team now believe Ezedi is dead, said: “I’m prepared to say he’s gone into the water and if he’s gone into the water that is the most probable outcome.”
Detectives consulted a behavioural psychologist with the National Crime Agency before reaching their conclusion.
Police said it could be a month or longer before a body surfaces. The River Thames at this time of year is fast flowing, and searches over the coming days will take place at low tide: “The other possibility is that he may never actually surface,” Savell said.
The woman attacked had been in a relationship with Ezedi that was believed to have broken down. She came to the UK for safety as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan.
Doctors are concerned she may lose the sight in her right eye.
Ezedi has been missing since the attack in Clapham, south London, on 31 January, with police describing him as highly dangerous.
Scotland Yard had earlier appealed for Ezedi – who was suspected to have been wounded in the attack and bore “significant injuries to the right side of his face” – to hand himself in. He is believed to have driven from his home in Newcastle to London early on the morning of 31 January, carrying the chemicals he would allegedly use hours later.
The woman remained “very poorly” and sedated in hospital on Friday, with detectives saying her injuries were thought to be “life-changing”. Her children, aged three and eight, are not thought to be as severely injured as first feared.
More than 100 officers were involved in the huge hunt for Ezedi, who came to Britain from Afghanistan in 2016 hidden in a lorry. Police raided an address linked to Ezedi in Newcastle where chemical canisters were found.
He was convicted in 2018 of a sexual offence but was later granted asylum after an appeal tribunal ruled in his favour.
Police had said on Monday that their two main theories were that Ezedi was either dead or being harboured from capture.