London acid attacks: It felt like fire, says victim

(BBC)The victim of an acid attack has said it felt like fire had been thrown at him when two moped riders pulled up alongside him and threw a corrosive substance in his face.

Jabed Hussain, 32, was one of five people attacked during a 90-minute period in London on Thursday night.

The delivery driver, whose own moped was stolen, said “my helmet saved me”.

Two teenage boys have been arrested. The government said it was considering more controls on corrosive substances.

“I took off my helmet and I was just screaming for help because it’s getting dry and as much as it’s getting dry it’s burning. So I was just screaming for water,” Mr Hussain said, adding that he was now too scared to go back to work.

The attacks – five in total – took place across Islington, Stoke Newington and Hackney on Thursday, with one victim suffering “life-changing injuries”.

Ch Insp Ben Clark, from the Met’s Hackney Borough, said all of the victims were riding mopeds.

Police have said they are linking the attacks and the boys – aged 15 and 16 – had been arrested on suspicion of robbery and causing grievous bodily harm.

Food delivery services Deliveroo and UberEATS confirmed two of the victims were couriers working for the firms. Deliveroo called the attack “truly shocking” while UberEats said it was “horrific and senseless”

The attacks happened amid rising concern about the number of assaults involving corrosive substances in London.

Since 2010, there have been more than 1,800 reports of attacks involving corrosive fluids in the capital.

So far this year – excluding Thursday night – the Met has recorded 119 such attacks. And in 2016, it was used in 458 crimes, compared with 261 in 2015, according to Met Police figures.

On Friday, a moped rider in his 20s was possibly hit with acid following an attempted robbery at 17:00 BST in Dagenham, east London.

The Met said the victim was approached by two males on a moped who squirted what was described as a “noxious substance” at him as they tried to steal his moped.

He was taken to hospital but has now been discharged.

Met Commissioner Cressida Dick said the growing trend of victims being doused with corrosive liquids was concerning.

Labour MP for East Ham Stephen Timms has tabled an adjournment debate for Monday in the House of Commons on the rise.

Jaf Shah, from the Acid Survivors Trust, has called for a licensing system and said under 18s should be prohibited from purchasing sulphuric or any form of concentrated acid.

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister viewed acid attacks as “horrific”.

“We are working with the police to see what more we could do.”

Home Office minister Sarah Newton said the government was considering tighter controls, but said regulation would be difficult, as “these chemicals are under everyone’s kitchen sinks”.

A Met spokesman said officers were looking at whether the attackers were targeting moped riders to steal their bikes.

The 16-year-old boy was arrested in Kingsbury Road, north-west London, early on Friday, while the 15-year-old was arrested in Stoke Newington several hours later.

Thursday night attacks timeline

  • 22:25 BST: A 32-year-old man on a moped in Hackney Road is left with facial injuries after a moped, with two male riders, pulls up alongside and attacks him. They also steal his moped.
  • 22:49 BST: A 44-year-old man has a corrosive substance thrown in his face by two men on a moped in Islington.
  • 23:05 BST: A corrosive substance is reported to have been thrown in the face of a 52-year-old man by two men on a moped in Shoreditch High Street. The victim is taken to hospital.
  • 23:18 BST: Police receive reports of a robbery in Cazenove Road, Stoke Newington, where a corrosive substance is thrown. A 24-year-old man suffers facial injuries described as “life changing”.
  • 23:37 BST: A 33-year-old man on a moped in traffic in Chatsworth Road, Clapton, has liquid sprayed in his face and his vehicle stolen.

Hackney resident Jon Moody said he was watching TV on Thursday when he heard screaming and ran to the window.

“I heard a high-pitched scream but thought it was the boys playing football… I heard more shouting and ran to my window,” he said.

“I could see a man in serious distress, he was screaming in pain.

“There were only two police officers with the victim, they took out two large water canisters and poured it over him.”

He said he believed the victim was a delivery driver and about 20 fellow delivery drivers turned up at the scene.

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