It’s been nearly five days since the Metropolitan Police began a nationwide manhunt to capture a man sought in connection with a heinous chemical attack, and a £20,000 reward is now in place for anyone with information leading to his arrest.
Prime suspect Abdul Shokoor Ezedi, 35, has been on the run since Wednesday after a woman, 31, and her two daughters were attacked with corrosive liquid in the street in Clapham, south London. Members of the public have been urged not to approach him.
The mum, who was known to Ezedi, remains in hospital in a critical but stable condition with life-changing injuries. Her daughters were also injured in the attack, as well as three people who rushed to help.
The National Crime Agency – Britain’s equivalent of the FBI – is now involved and Ezedi’s brother has urged him to hand himself in. Ezedi, who is from Newcastle, has been described as having “very significant” facial injuries to the right sight of his face.
The last sighting of him was at 9.33pm at Tower Hill Underground Station in east London on Wednesday, January 31, shortly after the attack.
Today, police said a man has been arrested and bailed on suspicion of hiding the suspect after the attack. The man, 22, was arrested in the early hours of this morning and taken to a custody suite in south London.
He was interviewed before being released on bail, the Met Police said.
Investigators believe there may be more people who know Ezedi’s whereabouts and have not come forward. The Met has warned anyone found assisting him will face arrest.
As the huge search continues and speculation mounts, the Mirror spoke to crime experts about the possible reasons Ezedi has evaded justice for so long. It’s believed he could have taken his own life or is using a close ally to stay hidden.
“There may be a couple of reasons why the Clapham suspect hasn’t been apprehended, despite having such distinctive injuries,” criminologist and crime scene investigator Alex Iszatt told the Mirror. “One scenario could be that he is dead. He could well have committed these acts in a fit of anger/passion and has completed his ‘task’ – or feels guilty and compelled to take his own life.
“Or he may have succumbed to his injuries. It’s unclear how deep the wound on his face is and he may have had a nasty infection. Although he was walking around after the attack, he may have been spurred on by adrenaline.”
As well as the possibility of death, Alex speculated that Ezedi could be in hiding. “Police claim he doesn’t have a large support network but there may be a few sympathetic individuals who have taken him in and cared for him,” she explained. “He may have managed to put some distance between himself and London – not all villages and towns have CCTV or people who actively watch the news.”
Sharing a wider insight into why the manhunt is taking so long, Alex said: “Trying to find someone in London who doesn’t have a permanent residence or family is extremely difficult. CCTV isn’t monitored actively at all times, and police rely on people getting in touch.
“We can look at a number of missing people cases and even high-profile cases such as Sarah Everard – when police take longer than the public expect – but it is simply that there aren’t enough police to cover all areas, and there are a lot of other crimes going on, so although it’s a high-profile case, there are many others of similar priority. If the Clapham attacker has left London then communicating across forces can be difficult. There may be one person in charge in London but that may not be the case in regions.”
Former Scotland Yard fingerprint expert and crime scene examiner Diane Ivory told the Mirror: “My thoughts are that he is either hiding out somewhere, likely with help from another or others, or is no longer alive. His facial injuries are very obvious, making him easily recognisable, so seeking medical attention in the way the general public would is impossible without alerting the authorities. My guess is that he will need help from an ally or is not being treated.
“He travelled from Newcastle prior to the alleged attack so has links there, but may well also have contacts either in London or further afield. He may have been helped to get away from London or he could well still be in or around the city, hiding in unoccupied premises. Maybe even a shed or garage. Considering that he could have gone anywhere, police will be relying on eyewitnesses and camera footage, along with any other intelligence they may have.”
Diane explained that it may be CCTV and dash cams that could have caught a sighting have not yet been examined. She added: “I am mindful that Raoul Moat evaded capture for seven days before police caught up with him. I hope that Ezedi is found sooner.” Moat killed one person and wounded two others in a shooting spree back in July 2020. The manhunt was one of the largest in the UK and lasted a week before the killer turned a gun on himself and took his own life.
Forensic psychologist Dr Naomi Murphy, co-host of the Locked Up Living podcast, agreed there is a possibility that Ezedi has taken his own life. She told the Mirror: “His actions are motivated by vengeance and spite. These are enduring emotions suggesting he’s felt wronged by his victim and been ruminating on it. These kind of retaliatory behaviours when displayed by men towards women are often associated with rejection. So there is a possibility he’s regretted his actions since then and harmed himself but it’s impossible to say for sure.”
Ruwan Uduwerage-Perera, director of criminology and justice at the University of East London, explained that Ezedi is one of many criminals to escape capture. He told the Mirror: “The reality is that it’s not uncommon for offenders to evade justice and it can take a while to capture them. I have grave concerns about where the debate is going as there has been far too much emphasis on his asylum seeker status, ethnicity and possible religion. If a heinous offence has happened, we should allow the police to investigate it. The police need support from the public and those who know where he is.”
Yesterday, detectives were said to be exploring whether organised crime groups may be helping Ezedi evade capture. Nick Aldworth, a former national counter-terrorism co-ordinator, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme today that the suspect has likely gone into hiding or taken his own life. He said this morning: “I think if we’ve not seen or heard from him in the last couple of days, which appears to be the case, he’s gone to ground, possibly supported by somebody… or it’s not unlikely or improbable that he may have taken his own life. There is therefore a body to be found somewhere.”
Ezedi left Newcastle in the early hours of Wednesday and travelled south to London and was in the Tooting area at around 6.30am. His vehicle was seen again in Croydon, south London, at around 4.30pm and by around 7pm, he was in Streatham. Witnesses say a fight broke out between a man and a woman in the street, before the man allegedly took a child out of the vehicle and slammed her onto the ground.
The woman was then heard screaming: “My eyes. My eyes. Call the police. My eyes.” The man then got back in the car and allegedly tried to run the woman over, the Sun reports. A witness claims: “There was a little baby girl banging on the door on the dad’s side, the lady was crying, screaming and calling for help. He opened the door, took out the baby and banged her against the ground twice”. Another witness told the BBC that the mother was crying “I can’t see, I can’t see”.
The man then attempted to drive away from the scene at 7.25pm, crashing into a stationary vehicle and fleeing on foot. Minutes later, the suspect boarded a tube train at Clapham South Underground Station, and by 8pm, he was at King’s Cross Tube Station.
Ezedi has also been revealed as a convicted sex offender, having pleaded guilty to one charge of sexual assault and one of exposure at Newcastle Crown Court in 2018. Relatives told Sky News that Ezedi had been in a relationship with the injured mum, who is thought to have been living in a hotel in Clapham with the two girls for a fortnight in a bid to escape him.