Man charged with acid attack on Muslim cousins

28th Jul 2017


Nadine Osman

The chief suspect in an acid attack on two Muslim cousins in East London has been charged with two counts of grievous bodily harm with intent. John Tomlin, 24, of Colman Road, Canning Town, east London, handed himself to police on July 9 in connection with the attack June 21. Tomlin was remanded in custody and ordered to appear at Snaresbrook crown court on August 8.

Resham Khan, 21, and her cousin Jameel Mukhtar, 37, were waiting at traffic lights in Beckon, Newham when a man sprayed a corrosive substance through the car window.

Both victims suffered life-changing injuries to the face and body and Mukhtar was initially placed in an induced coma.

The arrest comes after the Metropolitan Police released fresh CCTV images of Tomlin on July 7 as part of an appeal into his whereabouts. Police had initially ruled out a religious or racial motive for the crime but reclassified the attack as a hate crime when new evidence came to light at the end of June.

Mukhtar said he believed that he and his cousin were victims of an anti-Muslim hate crime.

He said that when a man knocked on the car window, at around 9.15am and sprayed the substance, he thought it was a practical joke. But Mukhtar then noticed that his cousin was burning, and started to feel his clothes and trainers melting to his body.

He tried to drive off but, temporarily blinded and in pain, he crashed. The pair stripped off and pleaded with local residents for water before being driven to a local hospital.

Khan posted an account of the attack on Twitter, describing her “excruciating pain”. She wrote: “I saw my clothes burn away in front of me. We stripped off in the middle of the road, running around screaming and begging for water.”

Khan, who was celebrating her 21st birthday on the day of the attack, said: “I’m devastated. I keep wondering if my life will ever be the same.” Mukhtar said he feels “emotionally wrecked” and “in continuous pain”.

The business student from Manchester has also launched a campaign from her hospital bed to end attacks with corrosive substances.

In an open letter, she called for the police to take “a zero-tolerance stance” on acid attacks. She described being in unbearable pain as she waited “for the return of my face”.

The letter comes as a campaign to change the law to make corrosive substances much harder to buy hit more than 360,000 signatures on an online petition, which Khan also shared.

Khan said she wants to ensure nobody else faced the “living nightmare” she had suffered since being left with severe burns to her face, neck and shoulder when she was attacked.

Mukhtar had also criticised the police response to the incident, telling Channel 4 News: “I honestly feel that if this was a white person that got attacked by an Asian person, he’d be caught within 24 hours. It would be all over the news, there’s be a national manhunt. It’s definitely a hate crime, I believe it’s something to do with Islamophobia.”

Speaking before Tomlin’s arrest, acting Detective Superintendent Neil Matthews, said: “We are treating this incident very seriously and, following new information that has come to light, it is now being treated as a hate crime.”

He added, “The Met recognises the impact hate crime has on communities and encourage anyone affected by these incidents to report them to police or through community reporting channels. This was a horrendous act of violence with the victims suffering burn-related injuries which will require long-term treatment.”

However, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) said the attack was no longer “being treated as a hate crime at this stage”. A spokesman for the CPS told The Muslim News exclusively “further evidence would be needed in relation to this and the CPS is continuing to work with the police on this case.”

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