A 31-year-old mother and a three-year-old girl have potentially life-changing injuries after an attack with an alkaline corrosive substance in south London.
The attack in Clapham on Wednesday evening also injured an eight-year-old girl, the Metropolitan police said. A hunt for the suspect is under way.
Witnesses described a “horrific” scene after the woman and her two young daughters were attacked.
A woman said she rescued the three-year-old girl after she was “thrown from a car.” Bus driver Shannon Christi, 35, said she heard a bang and someone shouting for help in the street, and ran outside from her flat that overlooked the scene.
She said she helped a girl who told her she was three, and tried to help her older sister.
Christie said the attacker was wearing black clothes and felt he “definitely” knew the victims. She said: “I heard bang and I heard someone saying ‘help’.
“I run outside and as I run outside I’ve seen this guy throwing a child on the floor, he picked her up and threw her again. So at that point I ran in and I grabbed her and took her into my block.”
Emergency services were called to Lessar Avenue in Clapham at about 7.25pm. The victims were taken to hospital along with passers-by and police officers who were injured as they tried to help on Wednesday evening.
Three women – two in their 30s and one in her 50s – who came to the aid of the family have been discharged from hospital with minor burns injuries. A man in his 50s who also helped declined hospital treatment for minor injuries and five police officers who were injured as they responded have all been treated and left hospital.
One couple who ran into the street after hearing a cry for help and the sound of a car crashing described what they saw to the BBC.
“We came outside and saw this guy and he took a girl out of the car and he slammed her to the ground twice,” a man who wished to remain anonymous said. “I chased him halfway down the road, but I was in slippers so didn’t get very far. As I came back, that’s when I saw the woman who had been attacked
“So I ran inside to get some water and just sprayed her down with water. It was quite horrific.”
Commenting on the family’s injuries, superintendent Gabriel Cameron said: “While none of their conditions are life-threatening, the injuries to the woman and younger girl could be life-changing. It may be some time before hospital staff are able to say how serious that might be.”
Supt Cameron added: “It was reported that a man had thrown a child to the ground and that a substance – which we now know to be alkaline – had been thrown. The man attempted to make off in a car but collided with a stationary vehicle, and then made off on foot, in the direction of Clapham Common.
“We believe the man and woman are known to each other. Our investigation is in its early stages and we are working to establish why this awful incident has happened.”
One woman told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The mum was saying: ‘I can’t see, I can’t see…so I shouted to my partner to get a bottle of water.”
A man was seen fleeing the area and police used helicopters in the search. An abandoned white hatchback with its doors open was visible behind the police cordon on Wednesday evening.
A local Labour councillor, Alison Inglis-Jones, said emergency services had arrived on the scene quickly. She told Today that the ward was “one of the safest in Lambeth, so we are horrified at what has happened”.
Inglis-Jones said the perpetrator had not yet been arrested and urged anyone with information to call 999.
A witness told Sky News: “There was a man in a white car with two children. It looked like he tried to run over a woman. They had been fighting.
“One girl in the back had her hand on the window – you can see the mark on the car. He grabbed one of the two children and violently grabbed them and slammed them on the floor.
“The lady then shouted, ‘My eyes! My eyes! Call the police, my eyes!’ Then I saw him run off. It was all so traumatising.”