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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

London hate crime acid attack suspect arrested

John Tomlin handed himself into police after CCTV images of him were circulated by police

Metropolitan Police
Metropolitan Police

LONDON // The main suspect in an alleged acid attack in London has handed himself in to police.

John Tomlin, 24, has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm with intent. He remains in custody.

The man handed himself into police on Sunday following the assault on Resham Khan, 21, and Jameel Muhktar, 37, who had been celebrating Ms Khan's birthday before the unprovoked attack.

The cousins were attacked while waiting at traffic lights in Beckton, east London on June 21.

More acid was thrown at Mr Muhktar before the attacker fled the scene. Both victims suffered severe burns to the face and body.

The injuries sustained when the corrosive substance was thrown onto them through their car windows are "life-changing". Mr Mukhtar was initially placed in an induced coma and Ms Khan has said she has had skin grafts.

The arrest comes after police released new CCTV images of the suspect as part of an appeal into his whereabouts. Police had initially ruled out a religious or racial motive for the crime, but reclassified the attack as a hate crime when new evidence came to light at the end of June.

The numbers of reported anti-Muslim hate crime in the aftermaths of the terrorist attacks at the Manchester Arena and London Bridge have risen.

Mr Mukhtar said he believed that he and his cousin, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University and aspiring model, had been targeted because of their religion.

“It’s definitely a hate crime,” he told British television broadcaster Channel 4 News. “I believe it’s something to do with Islamophobia. Maybe he’s got it in for Muslims because of the things that have been going on lately.

“I don’t know if people are trying to retaliate. We’re innocent people. We didn’t deserve that. I’ve never seen this guy in my life. I don’t have any problems with anybody. My cousin is 21. She’s a business student. Why would anyone do that to us?”

He recalled that when a man knocked on the car window, at around 9.15am on June 21, and sprayed the substance. Mr Mukhat initially thought it was a practical joke but then noticed his cousin was burning and felt his own clothes and trainers melting onto his body.

Despite being temporarily blinded and in pain, he attempted to drive off. He crashed and the cousins removed their clothes and asked local residents for water. They were then driven to a local hospital.

“When I went to the hospital, they had to jet-wash me with water to get the acid off,” said Mr Mukhtar. “It was excruciating pain. I was screaming like a baby. I’m petrified. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I’m going to be scarred for life. I’m emotionally wrecked. I’m in continuous pain.”

The 21-year-old Ms Khan had come to London to visit a spa and go for a meal to celebrate her birthday, having just returned from a student exchange year in Cyprus. She has criticised the emergency services’ response, claiming that the ambulance took too long to arrive and police waited days after the attack before taking a statement from her.

Ms Khan said: “I’m devastated. I keep wondering if my life will ever be the same.”