STORY UPDATE: John Tomlin, 24, of Colman Road, E16, has been found and arrested. He was charged with two counts of causing grievous bodily harm with intent in connection with the incident in Tollgate Road which is described in our original story (below). He appeared at Thames Magistrates’ Court on 11th July and was remanded to appear at Southwark Corwn Court on 8th August.
AT APPROXIMATELY 9.15am on 21st June, a 37 year old man and a 21 year old woman were sitting in a parked car in Tollgate Road, E16, when a man passed by and threw a corrosive liquid over them. The suspect made off on foot, with the car chasing after him until it collided with a fence, after which the suspect got away from the scene.
Passers by took the two victims straight to hospital before the police and ambulance service arrived. The victims were reported to be suffering from serious burns injuries, which were described as life-changing and which would need extensive treatment for a long time into the future.
Newham police officers worked with the Metropolitan Police Territorial Support Group to investigate the crime. On the afternoon of the attack they executed a warrant at premises in E16, but no arrests were made. Police made it clear very quickly that they wished to speak to John Tomlin, 24, who was known to spend time in Canning Town, in connection with the incident. He was described as white, around 6ft tall and with distinctive tattoos of teardrops on his face.
Acting Detective Superintendent Neil Matthews of Newham police said: ”I would like to reassure the public that our continued focus remains on finding the person responsible for this horrendous act of violence. We will continue to progress these enquiries as quickly as humanly possible and fully understand concerns that they should be brought to justice quickly.”
The police stated that inquiries were continuing, but that initially there was no evidence that there was a racial or religious motive for this attack. A couple of days later, however, police changed their minds.
Acting Detective Superintendent Neil Matthews made a new statement, telling the public “This investigation continues to move at great pace and my team continues to act on a number of leads to find Tomlin. I would also appeal directly to Tomlin to make contact with police and hand himself in and would urge anyone who knows of his whereabouts to contact police. We are treating this incident very seriously and, following new information that has come to light, it is now being treated as a hate crime. The Met recognises the impact hate crime has on communities and encourage anyone affected by these incidents to report them to police or via through community reporting channels.”
On 3rd July, Tomlin was sighted in a shop in Romford and police were able to release a new image (above), taken from CCTV, which showed a distinctive tattoo on his hand (right). Acting Detective Superintendent Neil Matthews confirmed that the matter was being treated as a hate crime and that police remained very keen to speak to Tomlin. He added, “Police are also aware of an altercation immediately prior to the assault that may have involved the male victim and two men. While this remains a hate crime inquiry, we are still examining a number of different strands regarding the motive. We appeal to anyone with any information about this horrendous crime, or the events leading up to it, to contact police.”
•Members of the public with information were asked to ring the police on 101 or to contact Crimestoppers on 0800-555 111, to whom information can be given anonymously. Anyone seeing John Tomlin was asked to ring 999 immediately.