The Metropolitan Police said their “main working hypothesis” is that Abdul Ezedi entered the fast-moving river, hours after he allegedly doused his former partner and her two children with corrosive liquid.
The police used CCTV to track the suspect’s last known movements to Chelsea Bridge, where he was last seen at 11.30pm last Wednesday.
Over the coming days, boats will start searching the river at low tide, but officers admitted recovering any remains could take months and his body may never be found.
In a briefing at Scotland Yard on Friday, Commander Jon Savell said: “We have spent the last 24 hours meticulously following the CCTV, and it’s our main working hypothesis that he’s now gone into the water.
“We have looked at all of the available cameras and angles, and with the assistance of Transport for London and CCTV from buses that were travelling over the bridge at the relevant time, and there is no sighting of him coming off the bridge.”
Following the horrific attack, which left the victim, 31, with life-changing injuries, officers tracked Ezedi to Tower Hill, where he got off an underground train and continued on foot for around four miles.
But his behaviour “visibly changes” once he reaches Chelsea Bridge – where is seen pacing up and down before he pauses and leans over the railings, Detective Superintendent Rick Sewart said.
“He’s walked with purpose, but has essentially hugged the Thames river line. When he has got to the area of Chelsea Bridge, his behaviour visibly appears to change in so much as he walked up and down the bridge – he pauses in the midpoint of the bridge, halfway down the bridge.
“Then he walked to and from the side of the bridge and can be seen to sort of lean over the railings before there is a loss of sight.”
Asked if officers believe Ezedi is dead, Det Supt Sewart responded: “We are prepared to say that he’s gone into the water and if he’s gone into the water that is the most probable outcome.”
It was also revealed that detectives had commissioned a National Crime Agency behavioural scientist to analyse Ezedi’s demeanour in the CCTV footage.
“I wouldn’t like to go into the exact details but they’ve sort of said what you’d expect them to say quite frankly, which is he’s committed an horrific attack. And that that’s it’s possible that he could have taken his own life given the circumstances,” Det Supt Sewart said.
“At this time of year, the Thames is very fast flowing, very wide and full of lots of snags. It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won’t appear for maybe up to a month and it’s not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface,” Commander Savell said.
However detectives confirmed the investigation is still active and they are still pursuing other lines of enquiry as they investigate the attack.
The major update comes following a nine-day manhunt for the suspect, 31, who is also thought to have suffered major injuries to the right side of his face during the attack.
Officers raided two addresses linked to Ezedi in Newcastle in the early hours of Thursday. In total eight warrants have been executed so far, three of which with armed officers.
Ezedi came to the UK hidden in a lorry in 2016, and was turned down twice for asylum before successfully appealing against the Home Office rejection by claiming he had converted to Christianity.
He was convicted of two sexual offences in 2018 but was allowed to stay in the UK because his crimes were not serious enough to meet the threshold for deportation.
A tribunal judge is understood to have ruled in favour of his asylum claim in 2020 after a retired Baptist church minister confirmed he had converted to Christianity, reportedly describing Ezedi as “wholly committed” to his new religion.
The woman hurt in the attack, who may lose the sight in her right eye, remains sedated in hospital and is still too ill to speak to police.