A 15-year-old boy was stabbed to death in the middle of Victoria Station during rush hour in a suspected gang fight involving rival schools.
Two groups of up to 35 children, many dressed in school uniforms, are said to have fought a running knife battle in front of hundreds of terrified commuters.
The victim ran into the station in an attempt to escape his attackers but they pursued him inside and he was caught just outside the ticket barriers of the District and Circle lines. The boy was surrounded and stabbed repeatedly. He died in hospital after being tended by police and paramedics.
Police say 20 people, aged between 14 and 17, were arrested at the scene last night and were being questioned this morning but it is not known if the killer or killers are among them. All those arrested were described as of Afro-Caribbean or Somali origin. A number of weapons, including knives, were recovered at the scene.
The victim is believed to come from Acton and was of North African descent. A spokesman for British Transport Police said his relatives had been informed of his death but officers were not yet releasing his name. Senior police chiefs in Westminster held a crisis meeting this morning and transport police said they were deploying extra patrols at Victoria station.
One senior officer said: “This was a running knife battle at the height of the rush hour. Commuters were absolutely shocked. This brings the whole knife crime issue right into our back yard.”
Sources say one theory being investigated was that two groups of children met at Victoria for a planned fight.
The victim was from a school in west London and the other group came from a school in north-west London. One insider said: “It seems there were about 15 youths from west London and about 20 from north-west London and they converged on Victoria for a reason. Apparently they were prepared for a fight.”
Witnesses said the victim was left in the ticket hall lying in a pool of blood in front of hundreds of tourists and commuters. His attackers then fled the station and a number are believed to have tried to escape on buses.
Tube worker Graham Lewis said: “My colleague who witnessed it said he was basically set upon by a gang of young boys. They were young, some were wearing school uniform.”
Another staff member said: “It was awful. I got a call that there had been an incident and ran down the stairs. The first thing I saw was this man lying on the floor in a pool of blood. People were screaming. There were commuters everywhere and they didn’t know what to do. People were in a panic.
“Just after he was stabbed about 30 police officers piled into the station. They were there really quickly. The paramedics arrived soon after and they started working on him. They had stripped his upper body because he went into cardiac arrest and they were doing CPR on him. Many of the staff members who saw what happened had to be sent home because they were in shock.”
One Transport for London ticket office worker, who declined to be named, said : “My colleague was right there as it unfolded. The boys attacking him couldn’t have been any older than him as they were wearing a dark blue school uniform.”
Victoria station was closed to Tube trains for several hours after the stabbing. A large area of the station was sealed off for much of last night as police searched for weapons.
Detective Superintendent Ashley Croft, who is leading the inquiry, said: “This was a reckless act of violence that has resulted in a teenager tragically losing his life and our thoughts are with his family at this time. We are working closely with our colleagues at the Metropolitan Police to build up a picture of what took place immediately before, during and after the attack and ask anyone who was at the station at the time or who has any information to get in touch.” He added: “We believe the attack started on steps leading into the Tube station on Terminus Place before continuing into the Circle and District line booking hall.”
The stabbing is the fourth killing of a teenager in London this year, although the number of these deaths is down compared with recent years. In 2008 30 teenagers were killed, many of them in gang fights.
Today Kit Malthouse, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, said: “Despite the huge reduction in teenage killings in the last two years, this horrible incident shows that we have still not won the battle against knife crime.”
Anyone with information should call 020 7391 5275 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
A man had his arm almost hacked off in a fight involving two rival restaurants in central London.
Staff from Azmar restaurant and the nearby Donya restaurant were caught up in the brawl last night which left pools of blood in Edgware Road.
The dispute began at 10pm after two cousins fell out when one began working for the rival establishment.
An employee of the recently opened Donya restaurant, who used to work at Azmar restaurant, is said to have confronted his cousin demanding his last pay cheque.
A row ensued and up to 15 men joined in the fight, which started in the Azmar and spilled out onto the pavement.
One of the men is said to have had part of his arm sliced off outside the nearby Portland Arms pub.
Shwan Chaker, 35, a friend of the owner of Donya restaurant, said: “The fight was between two cousins. One was working for Azmar but recently started working for Donya. His cousin was not happy and withheld money he owed him.
“The guy from Donya then walked in to Azmar demanding his money and before you know it, there was fighting and blood everywhere. Friends of both of them joined in with the fighting.
“One of the guys almost had his arm chopped off.”
A witness, who wished to remain anonymous, said: “There was blood everywhere. The floors and the stairs inside the Azmar restaurant were coated in blood.”
The area was cordoned off until this morning as police investigated. A tent was erected as forensic officers carried out tests. A police spokesman said five people have been arrested and are being questioned.