Pastor says he baptised hundreds of asylum seekers as Christians but 'half never came back to church'

10 February 2024, 23:18

A pastor has revealed that he baptised up to 500 asylum seekers in south Wales - but more than half disappeared after their conversion as scrutiny over religious asylum grows during the search for Clapham chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi.
A pastor has revealed that he baptised up to 500 asylum seekers in south Wales - but more than half disappeared after their conversion as scrutiny over religious asylum grows during the search for Clapham chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi. Picture: Bethal Baptist Church/Getty

By Chay Quinn

A pastor has revealed that he baptised up to 500 asylum seekers in south Wales - but more than half disappeared after their conversion as scrutiny over religious asylum grows during the search for Clapham chemical attack suspect Abdul Ezedi.

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Pastor Phylip Rees of the Bethal Baptist Church said that he organised mass baptisms for the migrants on a freezing beach in South Wales, as a "litmus test" for the legitimacy of their Christianity.

But the beleaguered clergyman said that he thinks up to 60% of baptised he never saw again.

The pastor, 74, speculated that the men had disappeared to go to London to find work.

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Pastor Rees said he wanted to help immigrants in need, telling the Mail on Sunday: 'We prayed that God would send us asylum seekers and lo and behold the Home Office opened up an office right next to the church.'

Pastor Phylip Rees of the Bethal Baptist Church said that he organised mass baptisms for the migrants on a freezing beach in South Wales, as a "litmus test" for the legitimacy of their Christianity.
Pastor Phylip Rees of the Bethal Baptist Church said that he organised mass baptisms for the migrants on a freezing beach in South Wales, as a "litmus test" for the legitimacy of their Christianity. Picture: Bethal Baptist Church

The revelation comes amid scrutiny, that Clapham, chemical attacker, Abdul Ezedi may have pretended to convert to Christianity to get his asylum claim accepted at the third attempt.

After his conversion, Ezedi is suspected to have thrown an alkali substance over several people, including a woman he was romantically involved with.

Searching for the suspect, police said they believed Ezedi may have thrown himself off Chelsea Bridge and drowned in the Thames shortly after the attack.

A Marine Policing Unit is now carrying out searches in the area, with a boat seen circling between Vauxhall and Chelsea bridges on Saturday morning.

Officers have been chasing the 35-year-old Afghan asylum seeker since Wednesday, January 31, after he doused a mother and her two daughters in a chemical.

Ezedi is now thought to have “gone into the water” and is probably dead after he was last seen on Chelsea Bridge at 11.27pm on the night of the attack last week, according to Met police.

Members of the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit near to Chelsea Bridge
Members of the Metropolitan Police Marine Policing Unit near to Chelsea Bridge. Picture: Alamy

Police believe Clapham chemical suspect Abdul Ezedi threw himself into the River Thames

In a briefing at Scotland Yard, Commander Jon Savell said: "We have spent the last 24 hours meticulously following the CCTV, and it's our main working hypothesis that he's now gone into the water.

"We have looked at all of the available cameras and angles, and with the assistance of Transport for London and CCTV from buses that were travelling over the bridge at the relevant time and there is no sighting of him coming off the bridge."

There is no other CCTV footage of the suspect following his last sighting on the bridge and officers do not believe he has been in contact with anybody else, the force confirmed.

A behavioural psychologist commissioned by the police assessed the footage, who said they believe Ezedi could have killed himself.

The force said Ezedi may “never” surface if he has gone into the river.

Commander Jon Savell said: "At this time of year, the Thames is very fast flowing, very wide and full of lots of snags.

"It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won't appear for maybe up to a month and it's not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface."

Ezedi “walked with purpose” before walking across the bridge and then “his behaviour visibly” changed, the force added.

"He walks up and down and can be seen leaning over the railings," said a Met spokesman.

Commander Jon Savell said if the suspect did not go into the water, officers would have been confident in finding him.

It comes after officers from the Metropolitan and Northumbria police services executed warrants at addresses associated with the suspect, including his place of work, in the north Tyneside area, the forces announced on Thursday.

Ezedi was last sighted on Chelsea Bridge on the evening of the attack.
Ezedi was last sighted on Chelsea Bridge on the evening of the attack. Picture: PA

Ezedi, from the Newcastle area, allegedly poured a strong alkali on his ex-partner, and her two young children, aged three and eight, on Wednesday January 31 in Clapham, south London.

The woman, who may lose sight in her right eye after being doused with the corrosive liquid, had been in a relationship with Ezedi.

She remains sedated in hospital and is still too ill to speak to police, the force previously confirmed.

Ezedi suffered significant facial injuries in the incident which police previously said could prove fatal if left untreated.

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