A massive manhunt is under way for a lone knifeman who went on a 90-minute rampage in Birmingham city centre overnight, killing a man and injuring seven other people.
West Midlands Police declared a major incident after being called to reports of a stabbing just after midnight on Sunday, before more calls came in of further attacks.
Detectives are now racing to catch a male suspect who managed to evade capture last night, with “significant resources” now deployed, said senior police officers.
Police have since released CCTV footage of a man they want to speak to in relation to the stabbings.
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, of West Midlands Police, said the incidents appeared to be “random”, with “no suggestion” the night’s events were linked to terrorism.
He said: “A man has tragically died.
“Another man and a woman have suffered serious injuries and five others have also been injured, although their injuries are not thought to be life-threatening.”
In the footage released by police, a man is shown wearing a dark-coloured peaked hat and zip-up hoodie with white drawstrings.
Also wearing dark-coloured trousers and shoes, he can be seen standing and walking on a street corner.
The force’s police and crime commissioner David Jamieson labelled the assaults “disturbing”, with the violence enfolding as revellers had been enjoying the night.
Speaking at a press conference at the force’s headquarters, itself only yards from where the initial attacks unfolded, Mr Graham said there was also nothing suggesting it was a hate crime or connected to city gang violence.
He also moved to end speculation the violence was linked to people “squabbling over tables”.
All my thoughts are with those affected by the terrible incident in Birmingham last night.
My thanks to the emergency services who are working hard at the scene. Anyone with information should contact @WMPolice
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) September 6, 2020
On Twitter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked the emergency services.
He tweeted: “All my thoughts are with those affected by the terrible incident in Birmingham last night.”
Home Secretary Priti Patel also said “all her thoughts” were with people affected by the “shocking incident” in the city.
“Our emergency services are working hard to find whoever is responsible and bring them to justice,” she tweeted.
Mr Graham said initial calls were to reports of a stabbing in Constitution Hill around 12.30am, and then at the nearby Livery Street next to Snow Hill railway station.
Paramedics said they responded to first reports of a call in Livery Street, in the north of the city centre, at about 12.40am.
The attacker then moved “north to south” through the city centre, said Mr Graham, into the heart of the city’s Gay Village quarter.
However, it was over an hour between the Livery Street violence and the next attack in Irving Street, across the city, at 1.52am which left a man fatally injured.
Shortly afterwards, the emergency services were called to another knife assault in Hurst Street at 2am.
Savvas Sfrantzis, who owns Mykonos bar and grill in Hurst Street, said he witnessed a woman being repeatedly stabbed, just across the street, after he was alerted by her screams.
He said: “I looked at him, facing him, and I can see he had a blade, small, not very big, and he was stabbing her in the neck.”
He described how the attacker was “so cold”, walking calmly away and “smirking”, while other bar staff bravely tried to follow him.
David Nash, a bar manager at The Village Inn, The Nightingale Inn and The Loft Lounge, said he came within 10 metres of a hooded suspect, spotted running from the scene of the stabbings, in Hurst Street.
He said: “I was on the street around 2.20am and we heard somebody shout down the street ‘stop him, he’s just stabbed somebody’.
“Initially it was a guy with a black hoodie on with the hood pulled up over his head, who was walking relatively casually.
“As soon as somebody shouted ‘stop him’ that’s when he ran off into the area of Sherlock Street.”
Mr Nash said the person was “calm” and walking unhurriedly, until someone shouted the alarm.
Praising the emergency services’ swift response, he described later witnessing paramedics treating a casualty for what appeared to be a neck wound.
Mr Graham said the wounds of those targeted “were consistent with people being attacked by knives” with “no suggestion of gunshots”, despite initial reports gunfire had been heard.
Asked as to a possible motive, Mr Graham said: “At this stage we can’t find a particular motive but it does appear to be random in terms of the selection of people who were attacked.”
He added: “We don’t know who the subject is.”
Mr Graham warned people coming to the city to give anyone suspicious “a wide berth”, as a trawl through vast amounts of CCTV begins to track the suspect’s movements.
He added: “What we are not saying at the moment is that Birmingham is not a safe place to be.”
Asked how he could assert the city was safe with the attacker still at large, Mr Graham said the force had “a significant presence” of officers, armed and unarmed, if the suspect was sighted.
“People should be assured we have got a significant hunt for that subject, ongoing,” he added.
Mr Graham confirmed there had, as yet, been no arrests.
Asked how the knifeman was able to move through the city centre for more than two hours without being caught, Mr Graham described the suspect’s route through Birmingham as “relatively unusual”.
He added: “There was no suggestion people had seen him running out, area searches were being made at the time, unfortunately the subject wasn’t caught.”
West Midlands Ambulance Service (WMAS) said it sent a large number of resources in response to the stabbings, including 14 ambulances.
A team of St John Ambulance volunteers based at the Arcadian nightspot was also involved in treating casualties.
Seven patients were treated by ambulance staff – five of whom were taken to the major trauma centre at Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham.
Three of the five taken to the major trauma centre had critical injuries and one man was pronounced dead shortly after arrival, WMAS said.
An eighth patient with minor injuries did not receive treatment.
There remained a heavy police presence in the city centre on Sunday, with armed officers, patrols, riot vans and squad cars visible among the city’s visitors and weekend workers.
What appeared to be used sterilised bandage wrappers could be seen next to a dark patch on the footpath, beneath a small blue forensics tent, in Barwick Street.
Just a few dozen yards away another blue tent could be seen in Livery Street, with armed police officers nearby.
Around the corner was a trail of what appeared to be dried blood spots along Newhall Street and Colmore Row, a grim reminder of the night’s shocking violence.
In Edmund Street, drain covers were being lifted and at one stage a black-handled serrated kitchen knife was removed from the muck and debris and carefully bagged as evidence.
Mr Graham said it was “too early” to linked the knife find to the attacks.
He appealed to any witnesses, anyone with social media videos and photos or CCTV of the incidents to urgently contact police.