On Friday, London’s Metropolitan police confirmed that two suspects on a moped threw acid or some other corrosive substance in the faces of five other moped users within a span of about 90 minutes, and on two occasions stole their victims’ vehicles. The five attacks are being treated as connected events.
Three of the victims were taken to the hospital for treatment. Police say one man has been left with "life changing injuries."
The attacks occurred between 10.25 p.m. and 11.40 p.m local time on Thursday, on the busy east London streets of Islington, Stoke, Newington and Hackney.
Authorities took to Twitter to ask people for any information they may have on the attacks, and say they have arrested a 16-year-old male on suspicion of carrying out a robbery causing serious bodily harm. A 15-year-old was also taken into custody for the same allegations.
"These are hideous offences and must have been very frightening for all of the victims," said Hackney Borough Chief Inspector Ben Clark in a statement. "I'm aware of rumours circulating that the victims were all food delivery riders set up in advance of the attacks. This is not the case. All victims were riding mopeds at the time of the attacks, but were from a variety of backgrounds."
"Of late we have seen more attacks using corrosive substances in London," he added. "I would urge businesses and parents to challenge those who they think may be trying to obtain or carry these substances, as this could help prevent serious offences and life changing injuries being caused."
A March report from the Metropolitan Police Service indicates a steady increase in acid attacks over the last three years, with 166 acid attacks reported in 2014, 261 in 2015 and 454 in 2016.
Labor Party member of Parliament Stephen Timms called for tighter restrictions and harsher sentencing to help curb acid attacks, making three suggestions to the House of Commons that he hopes will "make it harder to obtain noxious substances, and introduce tougher punishments for those who plan to use them as a weapon," according to his website.