Have-a-go hero bus driver rescued girl, 3, after she was 'thrown from a car' in Clapham chemical attack

1 February 2024, 10:18 | Updated: 1 February 2024, 14:20

Woman and two children in hospital after ‘corrosive substance attack’

  • Did you witness the incident? Email crime@lbc.co.uk

By Emma Soteriou

A have-a-go hero bus driver has revealed she stepped in to rescue a three-year-old girl who was "thrown from a car" during a chemical attack in Clapham.

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A mother and her two children were among 12 people left with potentially life-changing injuries after a ‘corrosive substance’ was thrown in south London.

Bus driver Shannon Christi, 35, said she heard a bang and someone shouting for help in the street, and ran outside from her flat that overlooked the scene.

She said she helped a three-year-old girl and another girl who "looked about eight or nine" who were both in tears following the incident.

LIVE updates: Manhunt for acid attacker after mum and two children targeted in Clapham, with nine left injured

Ms Christi said: "I heard a bang and I heard someone saying 'help'.

"I run outside and as I run outside I've seen this guy throwing a child on the floor, he picked her up and threw her again.

"So at that point I ran in and I grabbed her and took her into my block."

She continued: "I've then seen her mum walking up the road again saying 'I can't see, I can't see'."

She described the woman as Asian, and short with black hair.

Ms Christi said her partner had run down the road trying to chase the attacker. When he returned she told him the injured woman needed water.

"(We were) dousing her in water," she said. "Staff from the hotel came around and asked what's going on and I said she needs water."

Emergency services at the scene
Emergency services at the scene. Picture: LBC

Ms Christi was one of four bystanders injured while trying to help the mother and her children - along with five police officers.

She said her skin and face started tingling and immediately rushed to wash her own arms and face.

"I've done that but my lips were still tingling, kept burning, kept tingling, so I sat in the ambulance for a bit and then they took me to hospital," she said.

An urgent manhunt has been launched to find the attacker including a police helicopter which has been deployed after a man fled the scene following the attack. No arrests have been made.

Police have said they are working "with partner agencies" to locate him, adding that he is "a dangerous individual" who urgently needs to be found.

Read more: 'My eyes, my eyes!': Mother's cry after she and two children targeted in Clapham acid attack that left 9 injured

An abandoned car at the scene of the attack
An abandoned car at the scene of the attack. Picture: Alamy

The victim was known to her attacker, Streatham MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy told LBC News.

She said: "They’re not looking for someone I think that’s unknown to them, this individual was obviously known to the woman and the children who were attacked primarily, so they do have a lead and we hope that they will apprehend him very soon."

The woman was heard screaming: "My eyes! My eyes! Call the police" according to eyewitnesses.

A witness, Shane, who lives nearby told LBC: “Everyone was rushing around, there were police in the building securing the building, they had taped up chairs inside.

“I feel bad for the lady. I know acid attacks are not a good thing. I heard her face was really damaged.

Forensic investigators at the scene
Forensic investigators at the scene. Picture: Alamy

“The receptionist told me.”

“I heard somebody got picked up and thrown down.

“Last night they said the person is still at large.”

The mother and her children were given "immediate emergency care" before being rushed to hospital after the 'horrific' incident on Lessar Avenue, near Clapham Common on Wednesday evening.

Victims were treated for acid burns at a nearby hotel
Victims were treated for acid burns at a nearby hotel. Picture: LBC

An eyewitness to the incident, who asked to remain anonymous, said they saw a man in a white car with two children.

He had been fighting with the woman before he seemed to try and run her over with the car, the witness said.

A mother and her two young children are in hospital after the attack
A mother and her two young children are in hospital after the attack. Picture: Alamy

"He grabbed one of the two children and violently grabbed them and slammed them on the floor.

"The lady then shouted 'My eyes! My eyes! Call the police, my eyes!' Then I saw him run off. It was all so traumatising," they told Sky News.

One of the people who got the substance on them from helping said: "I then ran into my house, grabbed a water bottle and threw water on [the mother's] eyes.

"Her lips were black. Her skin looked burned.

One onlooker said the woman's lips had 'turned black'
One onlooker said the woman's lips had 'turned black'. Picture: Alamy

"I then chased the man halfway down the street. I was wearing my slippers so didn't get very far."

Another resident who lives nearby said: “I’m scared - it’s a very, very quiet street. Nothing happened before.. it’s a very very quiet street.”

A third said: “We’ve been here for so many years and nothing like this has ever happened.”

“It s a bit of a shock, we feel a bit unsafe, the man is obviously still on the loose, we don’t know if he’ll be back.”

Superintendent Gabriel Cameron, a senior officer who polices in Lambeth, said: "Firstly, I want to acknowledge the considerable public concern following this terrible incident, and update on the injuries suffered by the victims.

"The woman, who is aged 31, and her two daughters - aged eight and three - all remain in hospital. While none of their conditions are life-threatening, the injuries to the woman and younger girl could be life-changing. It may be some time before hospital staff are able to say how serious that might be.

"I am sure the public will join me in saying they are in our thoughts and we wish them the fullest possible recovery.

"Three women - two in their 30s and one in her 50s – who were injured when they bravely came to the aid of the family, have all been discharged from hospital with minor burns injuries. A man in his 50s who also helped declined hospital treatment for minor injuries he suffered.

"Five officers who were injured as they responded have all been treated and have left hospital.

"All these members of the public, and my officers, deserve enormous recognition and praise for coming to the aid of this woman and children in what must have been a terrifying scenario. We will provide them with all the support we can."

Read more: Man, 44, charged with murders of two teenagers in Bristol over the weekend

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A spokesman for London Fire Brigade said: 'Firefighters were called to a chemical incident on Lessar Avenue in Clapham this evening.

"Working alongside emergency service partners, crews provided immediate emergency care to a woman and two children. 

"Five further people were also treated at the scene. They were all taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews. 

"Crews also used specialist equipment to detect a corrosive substance that is believed to have been used in the incident."

London Assembly member Marina Ahmad wrote on X: “There has been a traffic collision with a man assaulting occupants in a car and throwing acid. Victims include children”.

Councillors Alison Inglis-Jones and Ben Curtis for the local area said the wider community had been left in 'disbelief' over the 'shocking incident'.

A joint statement from the Clapham Common and Abbeville councillors said: “We are appalled by the shocking incident that has taken place in our ward of Clapham Common & Abbeville and send our deepest and most heartfelt condolences to all those who have been affected.

“The two of us, and the wider community, are in total disbelief and shock at what has happened on Lessar Avenue this evening.

“We would like to thank the hard work of the Metropolitan Police, London Ambulance Service and London Fire Brigade for their quick response, rapid cordoning off of the scene and communication with residents.”

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