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Mother and toddler suffer potentially life-changing injuries in substance attack

Mother and toddler suffer potentially life-changing injuries in substance attack

A toddler and her mother have suffered potentially life-changing injuries after an alkaline substance was thrown at them in a “targeted” attack which saw 11 people taken to hospital.

The Metropolitan Police said the 31-year-old woman and her three-year-old daughter, alongside her other daughter, aged eight, remain in hospital following the incident in south London on Wednesday.

A manhunt is now under way for the “dangerous” suspect, who is believed to be known to the mother, after he also allegedly threw the younger child to the ground in the attack in Lessar Avenue, near Clapham Common, at about 7.25pm.

Police said in his attempt to drive away from the scene, the attacker crashed into a stationary vehicle and made off on foot.

Three members of the public who came to the aid of the family, two in their 30s and one in her 50s, have all been discharged from hospital with minor burns injuries.

The force said five officers who responded to the incident have also been treated and have now left hospital.

One witness to the attack, bus driver Shannon Christi, told the PA news agency she was affected by the substance while trying to help the woman and two children outside her home.

She said: “I heard a 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.”

Ms Christi said the three-year-old girl she had helped at the scene was crying and did not give her name, meanwhile the older child stood outside her flat block and was also in tears.

Ms Christi added: “I’ve then seen her mum walking up the road again saying ‘I can’t see, I can’t see’.

She described the woman as Asian, and short with black hair.

Ms Christi continued: “I shouted for my partner and he had run down the road trying to chase the man.”

She told PA that when her partner returned she told him the injured woman needed water.

The witness continued: “(We were) dousing her in water. Staff from the hotel came around and asked what’s going on and I said she needs water.”

She added: “At that point my skin started tingling as well, and my face started tingling.”

Ms Christi said staff took the toddler into the Clapham South Belvedere Hotel before going to wash her own arms and face.

She continued: “I’ve done that but my lips were still tingling, kept burning, kept tingling, so I sat in the ambulance for a bit and then they took me to hospital.

“It all happened so fast.”

Woman and two children in hospital after Ôcorrosive substance attackÕ
A total of 11 people were taken to hospital for treatment (James Weech/PA)

As well as the 11 people taken to hospital, a man in his 50s, who also helped, declined hospital treatment for minor injuries, police said.

Superintendent Gabriel Cameron, a senior officer in Lambeth, said: “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.

“Officers from across the Met are working with partner agencies and forces to locate and arrest the man.

“While this appears a targeted attack, he is a dangerous individual and we urgently need to find him.

“We will release more information about him as soon as we can.”

The Met praised the efforts of the public for coming to the aid of the family injured in the attack.

Mr Cameron said: “All these members of the public and my officers deserve enormous recognition and praise for coming to the aid of this woman and children in what must have been a terrifying scenario.

“We will provide them with all the support we can.

“I also want to commend nearby hotel staff after victims and officers sought refuge and water there following the incident.”

A spokesman for the Clapham South Belvedere Hotel said: “At 7.25pm last night, police and ambulance services were called to attend on a serious incident in which guests at the Belvedere Hotel were a victim.

“Belvedere Hotel staff, having supported the work of the emergency services, have provided assistance to the guests affected and sought to reassure other hotel guests as to their safety and wellbeing.

“The staff team will continue to provide assistance to guests and the police going forward.”

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley described the incident as a “ghastly attack”.

He told the BBC: “Fortunately, attacks using acid and chemicals are exceedingly rare. We did have a spate of them two or three years ago, you might remember.

“It’s not something we’ve seen much of at all recently, I’m pleased to say.”

Police in England and Wales recorded 472 violent and robbery offences involving a corrosive substance in the year to March 2023, the latest available figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.

There were 525 recorded in the previous 12-month period.

The data is published annually and only dates back to March 2020, when current records began.

The Home Office started collecting data on some offences involving corrosive substances from April 2019 as part of a government pledge to tackle such attacks.

The figures to March 2023 exclude any reports that may have been made to Devon and Cornwall Police because the force has been unable to supply data due to problems with a new computer system.