More than 24 hours after a series of knife attacks in Birmingham city centre, a 27-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of murder and seven counts of attempted murder, according to West Midlands Police.
Police say they are currently treating the stabbings as “random”, amid criticism of the fact the man was able to continue attacking people for an hour-and-a-half in a city centre with “a huge amount of CCTV cameras in place”.
The attacks took place between 12:30AM and 2AM on Sunday, in various locations around Birmingham city centre. After a citywide manhunt, the suspect was arrested in the Selly Oak area – a suburb to the southwest of the city centre – at around 4AM Monday, West Midlands Police said.
“We issued CCTV footage of the suspect and had a strong response from the public,” said Birmingham’s police commander, Ch Supt Steve Graham. “I’d like to thank everyone who shared our appeal and who provided information to the investigation.'“
West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said it had been “an incredibly difficult” 24 hours for the UK’s second largest city.
Early Sunday morning, police were called to a location near Snow Hill railway station, in the heart of the city, where a woman was hurt and a 19-year-old man was critically injured. The next call came at 1:50AM, from Irving Street, where one man was seriously injured and another had been fatally stabbed. The last was at 2AM, in the city’s Gay Village, where a woman was critically injured and two men were hurt.
Witnesses described the “chaos” of the aftermath, with one, Julia Robinson, telling the BBC, “There was a man and a couple that had been injured, a man covered in blood. There was a girl on the ground who appeared to be bleeding quite profusely, and people trying to help her.”
The fact the attacker was able to continue his spree for 90 minutes has drawn criticism from politicians.
Shabana Mahmood, MP for Ladywood – an inner-city district next to Birmingham – said on BBC Radio WM: “Firstly, how did it go on for such a long period of time over an area of ground that doesn’t take two hours to cover? And also, the length of time it took before we had CCTV footage out there and an appeal to the public with the face of the suspected attacker."
Khalid Mahood, MP for Perry Bar - a suburb in the north of Birmingham – told the Times: "We've got to look at the fact [the suspect] had two hours to run around the city centre, which has a huge amount of CCTV cameras in place. Where was the monitoring? Both the public and police were put at further risk. There is a person dead. How was this man able to go on a two-hour spate?"
Mayor Andy Street told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that he had been reassured that “officers were at each of the scenes very quickly” – an assertion backed up by witness Julia Robinson, who told the BBC, “Police were [at the scene of the last attack] literally in minutes.”
Street added: "It's very easy to comment on a police investigation while it's live. I don't intend to fall into that trap."
The streets where the attacks took police remain closed while police investigations continue.