A 19-year-old man is being held on suspicion of murder after a woman was killed and five others injured in a knife attack in central London on Wednesday night.
The man was Tasered by police and arrested following the incident, which left one of the victims lying in a “pool of blood” in Russell Square.
The attack began shortly before 10.30pm, with armed officers arriving on the scene within six minutes of being called.
Six people were injured and a woman, believed to be an American in her 60s, was treated at the scene before being pronounced dead a short time later, the Metropolitan Police said.
The attack was “random” and “spontaneous”, police said, with evidence suggesting the attack was “triggered by mental health issues”.
The suspect is now being held in police custody on suspicion of murder after being taken to hospital.
Police said the suspect was a Norwegian national of Somali origin, but stressed that there is no evidence to suggest that the suspect’s background is “relevant to the motivations of his actions”.
Two people who were injured in the attack remain in hospital. Three others have been discharged, police said.
Police originally said officers were pursuing terrorism as a “line of inquiry”, but subsequent statements have omitted any mention of terrorism.
Met Police Commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe said mental health remains a “substantial focus” of the investigation.
An eyewitness said he believed the victims were speaking in Spanish prior to the stabbing.
The witness, called Michael, told MailOnline: “I heard a scream, and then we went to the park and I saw a girl lying on the floor with blood coming from her back. Another girl had blood on her arm.”
He added: “They all spoke Spanish so I guess they were a group. I only saw the victim and the girl with the arm stabbed from that group.
“I just saw blood just next to her. She was lying on the floor with a friend hugging her.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan urged the public to remain “calm and vigilant” as an increased number of armed officers will be on London’s streets today.
Russell Square was one of the areas worst hit during the July 7, 2005 London bombings.
A train travelling between King’s Cross and Russell Square was targeted in the bombings.
Russell Square is also a short distance from Tavistock Square, where a bomb was detonated on a double-decker bus.
Police were first called shortly after 10.30pm to reports that a man armed with a knife was assaulting people at Russell Square, Camden.
A number of calls were subsequently made by members of the public between 10.30pm and 11pm that the man was attacking people with a knife between Russell Square, Montague Street, Bloomsbury Square and Great Russell Street.
Armed officers attended the scene within about five minutes of receiving the first call, police said. No shots were fired.
Julienne Lam, an entrepreneur who lives a short distance from Russell Square, told the Huff Post UK that friends who had been visiting her missed the attack by just 30 minutes.
The 25-year-old said: “I had a few friends over for dinner and drinks, and after they left I got a few frantic phone calls from other friends in London asking if I was okay.
“I read about the stabbings and was really worried that my friends took that route home. This morning one of my guests messages me saying she saw more police than ever before.
“She said she walks through the park all the time and has never felt unsafe before.
“Thank God by the time I found out about the attack all my guests had arrived safely home. I didn’t think this would happen in Russell Square.”
Lam said she moved to the area about a week ago “thinking it was a safe neighborhood and great location”, adding: “I’m shocked that an attack would happen here at night, it’s just so quiet and residential.
“I walk down that road every day and it just doesn’t seem like an obvious place for an attack.”
Lam said her friends left her house not long before the attack and “would have missed it by 30 minutes”.
Pol O’Geibheannigh was walking back from the cinema when he saw a woman lying on the floor.
He told Sky News: “It was just wall to wall with armed police. You could see a woman on the floor.
“She was lying in a pool of blood with a red blanket on top of her. I went into the bar and it wasn’t until an hour later that they put the tent up.”
The Metropolitan Police Service’s Homicide and Major Crime Command is investigating, supported by officers from the Counter Terrorism Command.
Hogan-Howe said: “My thoughts are with the family of the woman who was murdered and those who were injured. A normal night out in our busy capital has ended in horrific circumstances.
“Our investigation is moving very quickly and our detectives have been working hard throughout the night. As we have already made clear, mental health remains a substantial focus for our investigation.”
The Commissioner said he was “proud” the Met’s specialist firearms officers were on the scene in six minutes and were able to detain the suspect “using only a Taser”.
He added: “That demonstrates our commitment to use force in a professional and proportionate way.
“Their swift response undoubtedly helped to prevent more people from getting injured.”
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The Mayor of London said in a statement: “The safety of all Londoners is my number one priority and my heart goes out to the victims of the incident in Russell Square and their loved ones.
“I have spoken with the Commissioner, and the Assistant Commissioner, who have assured me that our police officers are working extremely hard to investigate exactly what has happened and to keep the rest of us safe.
“A man was arrested at the scene. Police have spoken to him and are seeking to establish the full facts including motives for this attack.
“I urge all Londoners to remain calm and vigilant. Please report anything suspicious to the police.
“We all have a vital role to play as eyes and ears for our police and security services and in helping to ensure London is protected.
“Our police officers are doing an incredibly difficult job on our behalf and they have my full support.”
Many people have offered their condolences to those affected by last night’s attack.
Jeremy Corbyn said his thoughts were with family and friends of the victims.
The Labour leader also praised the police response but urged people not to speculate on the “reasons or causes for it”.
Jo Cox’s widower, Brendan Cox, offered his condolences to those who were bereaved or injured last night.
Officers are continuing to interview witnesses and most of the cordons have been removed. One partial road closure remains in place.
Anyone with information is asked to contact the incident room at Lewisham police station on 020 8721 4868 or if they wish to remain anonymous, Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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