Two 'unexpected' male bodies found in River Thames as manhunt for Clapham chemical attack suspect continues
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Two "unexpected" male bodies were found in the River Thames as police continue their manhunt for the Clapham chemical attack suspect who severely injured a woman and her two daughters late last month. Abdul Ezedi, who is now believed to have "gone in the water" a few hours after the attack on January 31, is being sought in an area around Chelsea Bridge.
However, neither of the men found were identified as the suspect. One was found at 10.13am on Saturday near HMS Belfast and the other at 10.39am in Limehouse, the Metropolitan Police said. Both deaths are being treated as "unexpected pending further enquiries" and the bodies are understood not to be found as a direct result of the operation.
Ezedi, 35, who has been accused of throwing a strong alkali on his ex-partner and injuring her two young children, aged three and eight, has been on the run since the attack in Clapham, south London. He was last seen walking “with purpose” to Chelsea Bridge in west London and was captured on CCTV leaning over the railings of the bridge on the night of the attack.
After that, there was a visible change in his behaviour, said the police, resulting in a “loss of sight”, with no further CCTV footage of him coming off the bridge. Despite a direct police appeal for Ezedi to surrender himself, the police now say it is likely that Ezedi, who had "significant injuries to the right side of his face" in result of the attack, has died.
In a briefing at Scotland Yard on Friday (February 9), Commander Jon Savell said: “We have spent the last 24 hours meticulously following the CCTV, and it’s our main working hypothesis that he’s now gone into the water. “We have looked at all of the available cameras and angles, and with the assistance of Transport for London and CCTV from buses that were travelling over the bridge at the relevant time and there is no sighting of him coming off the bridge.”
He added: “At this time of year, the Thames is very fast flowing, very wide and full of lots of snags. It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won’t appear for maybe up to a month and it’s not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface.”
Detective Superintendent Rick Sewart said last week: “We’ve tracked Ezedi’s movements from the Tower Hill area where he alighted the underground and he’s walked over four miles to the location of Chelsea Bridge. He’s walked with purpose, but has essentially hugged the Thames River line.
“When he has got to the area of Chelsea Bridge, his behaviour visibly appears to change in so much as he walked up and down the bridge – he pauses in the midpoint of the bridge, halfway down the bridge. Then he walked to and from the side of the bridge and can be seen to sort of lean over the railings before there is a loss of sight.”
Mr Sewart added that this was consistent with “him going into the water”.
It was reported that Ezedi, an Afghan refugee, came to the UK hidden in a lorry in 2016 and was turned down twice for asylum before successfully appealing against the Home Office rejection by claiming he had converted to Christianity. He was convicted of two sexual offences in 2018 but was allowed to stay in the UK because his crimes were not serious enough to meet the threshold for deportation.
It is understood that a tribunal judge ruled in favour of his asylum plea in 2020 following testimony from a retired Baptist church minister who attested to Ezedi's sincere commitment to his new religion. On Wednesday a Baptist church in Tyne and Wear, where Ezedi is believed from, confirmed it was aware of a “connection” it had with the suspect.
The victim of the Clapham alkali attack is also “very poorly and unable to speak to the police”. Mr Savell said: “Our thoughts obviously still remain with our victim who still is very poorly and unable to speak to the police.”