Stabbing rampage leaves one dead, five hurt

December 24, 2004 - 8:00AM

A Turkish-born man with a history of mental illness was in police custody today after a stabbing rampage in north London that left one man dead and five other people wounded.

Police arrested the 30-year-old suspect without a struggle after the attacks which took place at several locations within a one-hour period in the morning in the Edmonton and Enfield districts of the capital.

Chief superintendent Simon O'Brien said the assailant drove from spot to spot in a car, stabbing each of his victims once or twice, apparently at random, within a 13 to 15.5 square kilometre area.

"He was coming out of the vehicle, picking people at random, male and female," O'Brien told reporters.

"Some were cycling, some were walking, and he stabbed them before getting back into his car. It's horrendous and I don't know what the motivation is."

The victims, including a woman, came from different ethnic backgrounds, O'Brien said, adding that the suspect - who was not identified - had "a history of mental illness".

Around 60 or 70 officers were assigned to the case, he said, and forensic teams were at each stabbing scene, looking for clues.

The rampage came barely a week after Prime Minister Tony Blair's government unveiled proposals to combat the use of knives in violent crimes, including the introduction of metal detectors at pubs and bars.

It also came a day after a shopkeeper of Turkish Cypriot origin was knifed to death as he chased two thieves who stole bottles of liquor from his grocery store in the same area of north London.

O'Brien said police were investigating if there might have been a link between Wednesday's killing and Thursday's rampage.

The first of the attacks came at around 8.20am (1920 AEDT) outside a train station in Edmonton Green. The 29-year-old male victim was rushed to hospital in serious condition, police said.

"He had just left his girlfriend when he was stabbed a couple of times in the back," O'Brien said. "He thought he had been punched and carried on."

In the hour or so that followed, four other men and a 30-year-old woman were stabbed at different locations.

"Some of them carried on walking, thinking they had been punched," O'Brien said. "The calls (from witnesses) then started coming in thick and fast, and we realised we were probably dealing with the same guy stabbing people."

One of the male victims, aged 40, died in hospital. The others were listed in serious or critical condition, with one fighting for his life.

O'Brien said the suspect was arrested at the wheel of a red Hyundai car similar to the one that witnesses had described to police.

"Within an hour or so, police had flooded the area," a police spokesman said, with a helicopter and a dog team joining in. "Hopefully that would have prevented him from committing further acts."

Eight days ago, then home secretary David Blunkett unveiled proposals to crack down on the use of knives in violent crimes, including airport-style metal detectors in pubs and bars.

Knives would also be banned from sale to youngsters under 18 years of age, who are already prohibited from buying tobacco and alcohol. The existing ban sets the limit at 16.

Blair's government had earlier said that school principals should be given new powers to search pupils for knives and to call in the police for spot checks if it is believed knives are on school premises.