Seven teenagers have been arrested following the murder of a 52-year-old who was stabbed with a screwdriver in a busy city centre in what police said was a “chance encounter”.
Northumbria Police said one boy aged 14, two 15-year-olds and four 17-year-olds were arrested after the “unprovoked attack” in Old Eldon Square, Newcastle, at around 6.20pm on Wednesday.
The victim, who was not known to the youths, has been named as Peter Duncan. He was attacked inside the doors of an entrance to the shopping centre, close to a Greggs bakery.
He was taken to the Royal Victoria Hospital where he died. He had suffered a single stab wound to the chest and police believed a screwdriver was used.
Duncan’s family paid tribute saying he will be in their “hearts and thoughts every day”.
In a statement released on Thursday, they said: “Peter was a kind and caring man who was always first to help others.
“He was a devoted father, husband, son, brother, uncle and friend and loved by all who knew him. His death will leave such a huge hole in our lives and he’ll be deeply missed by us all.
“Words can’t quite describe what life will be like without him.
“He had so much of his life left to live and he’ll be in our hearts and thoughts every day.”
Police search teams were scouring a cordoned-off area of Old Eldon Square outside the shopping centre.
The entrance to the mall had been closed off to the public but reopened on Thursday morning.
Chief Superintendent Ged Noble said the area was busy with shoppers and people going home from work at the time of the unprovoked attack.
He declined to say whether the victim had intervened to stop a fight among group of young people.
Old Eldon Square is an area around a war memorial where groups of youngsters regularly gather.
Noble said the incident was not linked to “the vagrant community” and said those arrested were known to police.
He said: “This is a tragic and shocking incident where a man has sadly lost his life.
“Our thoughts are with the family and friends of the victim and they are being supported by specialist officers at this extremely difficult time.
“Our investigation is ongoing but we have very quickly arrested seven teenagers in connection with the incident, one of which we believe to be the main suspect.
“It appears to have been a chance encounter between the victim and the offender which then led to what appears to have been an unprovoked attack.”
He said extra patrols will be carried out in the area to reassure the public.
Noble praised shoppers, diners and people going home from work who helped the emergency services.
He said: “We have had a fantastic response from the public, both in terms of immediate assistance that was given to the victim in support of ourselves and paramedics, and we have had numerous contacts from witnesses describing what they have seen.”
Anyone else with information is asked to call 101.