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Hunt continues for suspect Abdul Ezedi a week after Clapham chemical attack

Abdul Ezedi is the suspect over an alkali attack (Metropolitan Police/PA)
Abdul Ezedi is the suspect over an alkali attack (Metropolitan Police/PA)

Suspect Abdul Ezedi remains at large a week after a chemical attack which injured a woman and her two young daughters.

Officers from the Metropolitan Police have been searching for Ezedi since last Wednesday after the woman and children, aged eight and three, were injured in the attack in Clapham, south London.

The 31-year-old mother may lose the sight in her right eye after being doused with corrosive liquid, police said.

Police have offered a £20,000 reward to anyone with information leading to the 35-year-old’s arrest after they released more CCTV of him as they piece together his movements.

Ezedi, believed to be from Afghanistan, is understood to have arrived in the UK in 2016, reportedly in the back of a lorry.

He was handed a suspended sentence at Newcastle Crown Court on January 9, 2018 after pleading guilty to charges of sexual assault and exposure and was placed on the sex offender register for 10 years and ordered to carry out 200 hours of unpaid work.

Ezedi was accused of grabbing the bottom of a woman without her consent in 2017, as well as committing a sex act that same year, according to documents detailing the indictment which were disclosed by the court to the PA news agency on Tuesday.

Under sexual offences laws, victims are granted lifelong anonymity unless they waive this right and choose to be identified.

A victim who Ezedi exposed himself to told the Sun newspaper that he should not have been allowed to remain in the UK.

“If he’d been jailed for attacking me then surely he would have been deported,” she said.

“But the failings didn’t end there because someone from a church gave him a reference so he could gain asylum.

“Who in their right mind thought that was a good idea when he was on the sex offender register? The world is a mess.

“He’s a danger to women. That’s obvious to everyone.

“It all came flooding back when the story broke of the attack.

“When his photo came up on TV I said out loud, ‘Oh my God look who is on there’.

“I’ve been following it every day in the hope of seeing him arrested – or dead.

“I feel awful saying it, but it’s true.”

(PA Graphics)
(PA Graphics)

Questions remain over how Ezedi came to be granted asylum in the UK despite his conviction, amid suggestions a tribunal judge ruled in favour of his claim after a priest confirmed he had converted to Christianity and was reportedly “wholly committed” to his new religion. It is understood the priest in question was not Roman Catholic or from the Church of England.

On Tuesday, the diocese of Newcastle, in the Church of England, confirmed it had found “no evidence” of Ezedi “attending any of our churches, or being supported by our clergy in any asylum application”.

It added its clergy “will continue to support asylum seekers as they engage with the Home Office application process, and the scrutiny this involves”.

Bishop of Chelmsford Guli Francis-Dehqani, who came to the UK as a refugee, said it was “saddening” for politicians to claim a link between abuse in the asylum system and the actions of clergy in the wake of the case.

Writing in The Telegraph, she said she makes “no apology for our involvement in supporting people who are often deeply vulnerable and traumatised”.

Clapham Common incident
Police at the scene in Lessar Avenue near Clapham Common, south London (James Weech/PA)

She said religious ministers from all denominations occasionally provide statements of support to people seeking asylum, but added: “The notion that a person may be fast-tracked through the asylum system, aided and abetted by the Church, is simply inaccurate.”

The debate over the clergy’s involvement in the asylum system comes after religious leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, vocalised their opposition to the Government’s plan to send migrants seeking sanctuary in the UK to Rwanda.

On Tuesday, police said “painstaking work” by counter terrorism officers – who are “highly experienced in manhunts and tracking offenders” and have been drafted in to help scour hundreds of hours of CCTV – meant Ezedi had now been traced from his last-known position at 9.47pm on Allhallows Lane in the City of London.

At 9.54pm he travelled along Upper Thames Street and then into Pauls Walk, passing the City of London School and then towards Blackfriars Bridge.

The most recent sighting is at 10.04pm when he passed the Unilever building and headed towards Victoria Embankment, the Met said.

Clapham Common incident
Abdul Ezedi was caught on CCTV at 9.51pm on January 31 on Upper Thames Street, London (Metropolitan Police/PA)

They tracked his movements around the Tube network using his bank card, but it has not been used since that day.

Commander Jon Savell said it “remains our belief that he is being helped by others” and the police probe will continue to “target more of Ezedi’s associates”.

Officers arrested a 22-year-old man on suspicion of assisting an offender on Monday and later released him on bail.

Police said there is no evidence to suggest Ezedi had made advance preparations to go on the run.

Detectives are working on the premise that he is either being hidden by someone or has come to harm.

Ezedi, who is from Newcastle, is not the father of the children involved in the attack and was in the capital visiting the victim, police believe.

More than 100 officers are now “dedicated” to the investigation, including experienced detectives through to local neighbourhood officers, with the Met being supported by “dozens of officers” from forces across the UK, including in Northumbria and British Transport Police.

The Met is also in touch with the National Crime Agency, the Home Office, UK Border Force and UK Visas and Immigration, with details of Ezedi circulated to all UK police forces and ports.

More than 200 calls have been received from members of the public with potential sightings, but they have since been discounted.

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.

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.