UK

'Acid Attack' Fears After Paramedic Flagged Down By Three Men And Sprayed With 'Noxious Substance'

'If one of my attackers were hurt, I would still treat them because that is the job.'

18/07/2017 12:34 BST
Toby Melville / Reuters
A London Ambulance Service paramedic has told of a 'horrifying' incident in which she was sprayed with a noxious substance after being flagged down

WARNING: Some images used in this story may disturb some readers.

A paramedic has detailed a “terrifying” incident in which she was flagged down by three men and sprayed in the face with a liquid she feared was acid while on an early-morning call-out to help a man with chest pain.

While labelling the trio “cowards” for the attack on Sunday - which came days after five acid attacks were staged across London within 90 minutes - the unnamed ambulance worker has shown incredible compassion despite her ordeal.

“What they’ve done is horrific in so many ways. It was premeditated and it delayed a patient getting treatment. It took a paramedic off the road that night,” she wrote in a statement released by the London Ambulance Service (LAS) on Tuesday. 

“And yet if one my attackers were hurt, I would still treat them because that is the job.”

The paramedic has been praised for her bravery and compassion on social media with commenters urging her to not let the incident “change who you are, you will always be caring”.

The lone paramedic was sprayed with a “noxious substance” around 1.30am on Ferry Lane, Tottenham Hale, after being flagged down by the men who “appeared to be in distress”. 

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A police handout image of a man recovering after an acid attack. There has been a spate of acid attacks in recent weeks.

After stopping to ask the men if they were ok, the group pulled bandanas up over their faces: “It was horrible. I didn’t know what was going to happen to me,” the paramedic said. 

“It all happened very quickly – one of them threw liquid out of a plastic bottle at me. The window was only open a few inches but the liquid went on my face, neck and chest.

“He was wearing latex gloves, so my first thought was, is this acid?”

The ambulance service has since said the substance was not acid, but caused enough “irritation” to warrant the paramedic being taken to hospital. She has since been discharged. 

Of the attack, the paramedic said: “It was terrifying. This was so cowardly. It is my job to help people. I was on my way to help a patient and I stopped because I am caring and I thought they needed my help.

“They have taken away my trust.”

Peter Rhodes Assistant Director of Operations for the ambulance service said he was “appalled” by the attack which not only harmed the paramedic but delayed “treatment to a potentially critically ill patient”.

Rhodes said the incident has been reported to police and the ambulance service is doing “everything in our power to make sure those responsible are identified and convicted for this senseless attack”.

He added that all frontline ambulance crews in London are being reminded of the need to be cautious when flagged down by anyone requesting help or assistance.

Rhodes added: “While this type of situation is thankfully very rare, we are reminding medics they should be mindful of the potential risk and be cautious in similar situations.

“Naturally we are doing everything we can to support the paramedic who is understandably distressed by this incident. We encourage our staff to report violent incidents and do everything we can to give our crews a sense of safety at work”.

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Resham Khan recovering in hospital after being doused with acid on June 21

The Metropolitan Police told HuffPost UK that a complaint of common assault had been lodged with police in Haringey and urged anyone with information about the incident to call 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

A London Ambulance Service spokeswoman added to HuffPost UK on Tuesday that staff had not been warned about protecting themselves from acid attacks, but had been issued with advice on treating victims.

Incidents involving ambulance staff being attacked while on duty are not uncommon, with the service recording 456 incidents between 2015 and 2016, a 16% increase in assaults on the previous year. 

The attack in Tottenham follows a spike in acid attacks across the capital with two teenagers being arrested for an alleged string of attacks on moped riders last Thursday that left one man with “life-changing injuries”. In April, at attack at an east London nightclub left twelve injured and on 21 June Resham Khan, 21, and Jameel Mukhtar, 37, suffering life-changing injuries after they were doused in sulphuric acid as they waited in traffic. 

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London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick

The Government this week announced a review will be undertaken into the punishments for acid attacks, with Home Secretary Amber Rudd saying that perpetrators must feel the full force of the law”. 

“I am clear that life sentences must not be reserved for acid attack survivors,” she wrote in the Sunday Times.

Proposals to ensure acid and other corrosive substances can be classed as dangerous weapons are among the changes suggested, as are measures to restrict its sale. 

London Mayor Sadiq Khan has separately called for judges to sentence those convicted of carrying acid as harshly as those guilty of carrying other offensive weapons and has called for the government to adopt a “zero tolerance” approach to the offending. 

According to Jaf Shah, head of Acid Survivors Trust International, there were 720 recorded acid attack in Britain in 2016, a number that had doubled nationally over a three-year period.