The man suspected of stabbing three people at Manchester Victoria on New Year’s Eve was known to mental health services, according to a source close to the investigation. “There’s often an underlying mental health problem when someone commits anything of this kind,” the source said. The suspect was not previously known to anti-terror police, they…
The man suspected of stabbing three people at Manchester Victoria on New Year’s Eve was known to mental health services, according to a source close to the investigation.
“There’s often an underlying mental health problem when someone commits anything of this kind,” the source said. The suspect was not previously known to anti-terror police, they added.
The 25-year-old, from Cheetham Hill in north Manchester, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act on Tuesday night.
Greater Manchester police (GMP) said he had been detained under section three of the act, which allows doctors up to six months to treat a patient in a psychiatric hospital. This can be renewed for a further six months, then annually.
On Wednesday the man’s family released a statement saying they were praying for the three victims – a couple in their 50s and a British Transport Police officer, who was injured as he and colleagues confronted the attacker with stun guns and pepper spray.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were seriously injured, their families and friends,” the statement read.
“We are also eternally grateful for the swift response from the emergency services and the comfort given to those affected by fellow Mancunians and citizens.
“The GMP have informed us that our family member is currently detained under the Mental Health Act and is being treated by specialist medical staff.
“We are acutely aware that many, including within the media, may well have many questions to ask us. However, we have been informed by the GMP that there is an active ongoing, terrorist investigation and as such we are limited in what we can say at this stage.
“It is important that the police investigations take its course and any reports and articles avoid any assumptions, speculations and generalisations.”
Meanwhile the police sergeant injured in the incident said “instinct took over” as he ran towards the alleged assailant. British Transport Police sergeant Lee Valentine said in a statement: “We had no idea what we were running towards when we heard the screams on New Year’s Eve.
“When we saw the man wielding a knife, instinct took over and we were able to, in company with travel safe officers from Metrolink, successfully detain the male.”
The BTP chief constable, Paul Crowther, praised the bravery of Valentine and his colleagues and said they had averted a tragedy of a far greater scale.
Earlier Sir Peter Fahy, the former chief constable of Greater Manchester police, said the incident highlighted a growing concern around people with existing mental health issues being particularly vulnerable to radicalisation.
“I don’t think it stops it from being a terror attack, particularly for the people involved,” Fahy told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning.
Greater Manchester police said a counter-terrorism investigation remained ongoing. On Wednesday police finished searching the suspect’s house and said they were “increasingly confident that the man acted alone in the final stages of the attack”.
The force said: “In the coming months whilst the man is detained and being assessed under the Mental Health Act, the investigation will carry on as usual searching for evidence and investigators will be consulting with medical specialists and the Crown Prosecution Service in relation to any potential criminal prosecution.”
The man injured has made good progress and should be released from hospital in the next day or so, GMP said. His partner has also improved but is expected to require further treatment, they added.
Fahy, who led GMP for seven years until 2015, said the recent terror attacks on London Bridge and Manchester Arena had underlined the need for the security services to work more closely with local agencies, including mental health professionals.
He added: “Obviously the big question is why would somebody who has got a mental illness be inspired or incited or get an idea to carry out an attack, and this is really the nub of the issue.
“What we know is that people who perhaps have an existing problem in their lives – a medical issue, an addiction issue, a mental health issue – are particularly vulnerable to be targeted, to be radicalised, and that is why there is much closer working between police and the mental health agencies [while] always respecting patient confidentiality.”
Fahy said the mental health dimension did not necessarily reduce the level of fear or risk to the public, which he said was “still at its very highest”.
He added: “It does mean that the intelligence services [and] the police are working much more closely with other agencies – social services, youth organisations, mental health agencies – and this is becoming more and more the focus of the work and that is very different from the time after 11 September or the 7 July bombings.
“That is why the information from the public, information from family members, information from other agencies, information from medical professionals, is becoming much more important in the agencies identifying people who might be prone to carry out this sort of attack.”
On Tuesday morning, armed officers raided a property in Cheetham Hill, where the suspect, who is being held on suspicion of attempted murder, lives with his parents and four siblings.
Alim Obeadlugh, a neighbour, said he had been out walking near the property when he saw armed officers. He said: “They just told me to go back inside. They did not even give me a chance to ask what it is about, they just said go in. I thought it must be a serious problem and I asked them what was going on and they said it was a terrorism incident.”
Nousha Babaakachel said the man’s family came to live in the street about 12 years ago from the Netherlands.
A neighbour said one of the suspect’s brothers worked at Manchester airport, but a senior airport source said checks had proved the brother was “categorically not” an airport employee. It was possible he worked for one of the 80-plus third-party companies based at the airport and checks were ongoing, they added.
The incident, classified as critical, was being investigated by counter-terrorism officers after the perpetrator was allegedly heard shouting Islamist slogans during the attack just before 9pm at Victoria station in the city centre.
Footage of the aftermath of the incident showed a man being held down by five police officers, with blood stains on the pavement. Another video showed the suspect shouting “Allahu Akbar” as he was put in the back of a police van. He was also heard screaming “Long live the caliphate”.