London: UK police were on Thursday hunting a suspect who attacked a woman and her two young daughters with a corrosive substance on a south London residential street.
Britain has battled back against attacks involving corrosive substances such as acid and saw incidents decline until a resurgence in 2022.
The 31-year-old woman and her children aged eight and three were taken to hospital along with three members of the public who went to their aid.
Five officers who responded to the incident in Clapham on Wednesday night also suffered minor injuries.
Police named the suspect as 35-year-old Abdul Ezedi, believed to be from the Newcastle area in northeastern England and urged the public not to approach him.
They said he was thought to have “significant injuries to the right side of his face”, without elaborating.
He had last been spotted in the north London area, Superintendent Gabriel Cameron told reporters Thursday at the scene of the attack.
Cameron said the woman and the younger child had suffered potentially “life-changing” injuries, adding that it could be some time before hospital staff could say how serious they were.
He paid tribute to four members of the public who “bravely came to the aid of the family” in a “terrifying scenario”.
Three women who helped had been discharged from hospital with minor burns. A man who also responded was injured but declined hospital treatment, he said.
Cameron said the attacker and the woman are believed to know each other. “This appears to be a targeted attack,” he added.
Attacks involving corrosive substances including acid had been declining following a peak of 941 cases recorded in 2017.
But cases spiked again in 2022, according to the charity Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI).
Police force data showed crimes involving the use of the substances increased by 69 percent across England and Wales in 2022, with at least 710 attacks compared to 421 in 2021.
The figures were obtained through freedom of information requests by the Trust which warned that the true number of attacks was likely to be “far higher” as not all police forces responded.
The previous decline in cases had been partly attributed to the introduction of stricter controls on the availability of acid and other corrosive substances under the 2019 Offensive Weapons Act.