Hunt for 'knife-wielding' attacker who wanted to 'kill my first Jew'

Hunt for ‘knife-wielding’ attacker who told Jewish man he wanted to ‘kill my first Jew’ in anti-Semitic assault in north London during Hanukkah

  • Jewish man suffered racially aggravated assault at an M&S in West Hampstead
  • Victim, aged 20, was chased around the store and beaten in the terrifying ordeal
  • Jewish community leaders said Met Police should have arrived much sooner
  • Force said it was not initially a priority as man had left area when first call made

A manhunt has been launched for a ‘knife-wielding attacker’ who allegedly beat up and threatened to kill a Jewish man inside a Marks and Spencer store in north London.  

Metropolitan Police have released a CCTV image of a man they want to speak to in relation to the racially aggravated assault, which occurred in West Hampstead on December 2, during the Jewish festival of Hanukkah. 

The attacker is said to have told the victim, aged 20, that he was ‘looking for a Jew to kill’ – before following him inside the store and allegedly punching him in the head before telling him: ‘I’m not going away until your dead.’  

The suspect, who spoke Arabic and also had an east London accent, is described as being black and possibly of Somali ethnicity, aged between 25 and 30 and measuring between 6’0′ and 6’1′ in height.

The man in the CCTV image is not confirmed as being the attacker, but anyone who knows him is being urged to contact police via the 101 number.  

The assailant is said to have told the victim that he wanted to ‘kill my first Jew’, before chasing him around the store and beating him during the terrifying ordeal. 

The incident was described by Home Secretary Priti Patel as ‘seriously disturbing’.

She said in a tweet: ‘Seriously disturbing antisemitic incident in north London. I will remain in close contact with @metpoliceuk and @CST-UK as the investigation progresses and I would urge anyone with info to contact the police immediately.’

Metropolitan Police have released a CCTV image of a man they want to speak to in relation to the incident, which occurred in West Hampstead on December 2 

Jewish community leaders have since blasted the Met for initially telling the victim they could take an hour to arrive at the scene – despite him telling officers that the attacker said he wanted to kill Jews. 

The force said it receives thousands of calls each day and that the case was not deemed a high priority at first because at the time the initial call was made, the suspect had left the area.  

The events began when the victim was walking past the Marks and Spencer supermarket in West Hampstead square and saw a man desecrating a four-metre high Chanukiah display, or Chanukah Menorah – which had been erected to celebrate the Jewish festival of Chanukah, also known as Hanukkah. 

The assailant allegedly pulled down the display and began stomping on it while hurling anti-Semitic insults.    

He then approached the victim and allegedly told him: ‘You look Jewish’, before adding that he was ‘looking for a Jew to kill.’   

He then allegedly asked threateningly: ‘Are you Jewish?’ 

The victim, wishing to avoid a confrontation, said ‘No,’ to which the man allegedly replied: ‘Good, I want to find a Jew to kill.’

The Jewish man entered the nearby Marks and Spencer supermarket while the attacker remained outside. 

The victim was worried for the safety of other Jews and their families in the neighbourhood, which has a sizeable Jewish population. 

He approached a supermarket employee, who said that the man had been in the store earlier, and decided to call the police, believing the attacker had left the immediate area.

Officers told the victim that they did not consider the case urgent enough for a priority response and would come within an hour.

The terrifying ordeal is said to have occurred inside an M&S in West Hampstead (pictured)

After a short period of time, the victim spotted the man again, outside the shop, pulling down the public Chanukiah which someone had put back up in the intervening time. 

The victim also said that the man was shouting aggressively at a young woman, aged 18-25, who fled the square. He then returned to pulling the display to the ground.

Fearing for the young woman, the victim and the supermarket employee confronted the man from a ten-metre distance. 

The suspect then allegedly shouted at him in response: ‘I knew you were Jewish, you lied to me’, before walking towards him while shouting: ‘You are Jewish. I am going to kill you.’ 

He then reportedly said something in Arabic before allegedly declaring: ‘I want to kill my first Jew.’

The victim ran back into Marks and Spencer and turned to see if the man had followed him, which he had, having put on a face mask.

As the assailant walked into the shop, he allegedly shouted at him again: ‘You are Jewish.’

The attacker caught up with his target and allegedly pushed him on his chest while repeating: ‘You are Jewish. I am going to kill you.’ 

He allegedly began attempting to hit the victim around the head as he put his arms up to block the blows. 

The Jewish man pushed the man off him and told him to back away, before allegedly being told: ‘I am not leaving until you are dead.’   

The attacker allegedly punched the victim in the head, repeating his threat of not leaving until he was dead. 

The victim ran for the checkout aisle as the attacker followed him, allegedly hurling anti-Semitic abuse and threats, in English and Arabic.    

The suspect then allegedly grabbed what appeared to be a knife in his jacket pocket and said: ‘I will kill you now, you Jew.’

The Jewish man ran to the back of the shop before the feared weapon was fully revealed. 

The attacker is then said to have performed a slit-throat gesture at the Jewish man, before picking up the victim’s jacket and bag which he had dropped during the ordeal, and calmly walking out.   

Met Police were criticised by Jewish community leaders for not arriving to the scene quick enough (file photo)  

A store employee and the victim both called police, who upgraded the incident and launched a manhunt. 

The victim’s bag and jacket were both recovered. 

The attacker had a slender build and crooked teeth, and wore a dark green beanie hat, a dark puffer jacket with large pockets, dark trousers and no gloves. 

Jewish community leaders have since blasted the Met for not arriving sooner.     

Stephen Silverman, Director of Investigations and Enforcement at Campaign Against Antisemitism, said: ‘What this victim has suffered is unspeakable, and it is only thanks to his quick thinking that he survived the ordeal without even worse injury than he endured. 

‘The delayed response of the police, despite the close proximity of a police station just up the road, is deeply concerning, and the result is that a man who apparently wants to kill Jews is now at liberty.

‘This is the most heinous of a considerable number of anti-Semitic crimes that we have reported over the course of Chanukah. 

‘The sad truth is that our nation’s capital is not nearly as safe as it should be for Jewish people who wish to celebrate a festival or, in this case, simply go about their daily lives. 

‘Unless the police and the justice system step up and ensure that anti-Semitic criminals face the full consequences of their despicable actions, this will not change.

The brazen thugs showed little worry of getting into any trouble with the police 

Video footage showed the aggressors making Nazi salutes at the Jewish teenagers 

‘We are providing the victim with legal and other assistance. We urge the public to assist in the identification of the individual whose description has now been circulated.’

The Metropolitan Police Service said: ‘Officers have carried out a number of enquiries and have today released a CCTV image of a man they need to speak with. Anyone who recognises the man is asked to call police via 101 or tweet @MetCC quoting reference CAD6588/02Dec.’

In response to criticism of its response time, it added: ‘Police received a first call about this incident at 19:21hrs during which the caller told the call handler that the suspect had left the area. The caller was unable to say in which direction the suspect had gone.

‘Each call to the police is graded based on the information available at the time and in this case, the suspect no longer being in the area meant it did not require the highest priority response.

‘Officers are still allocated to attend non-priority calls to gather evidence and commence investigations but the target time for a response is slightly longer.

‘A second call was received at 19:36hrs during which the caller confirmed the suspect had returned. The call was graded as a priority requiring an immediate response and officers were dispatched to the scene.

‘The Met receives many thousands of calls every day and it is not possible for every incident to be responded to immediately. Call handlers use the information they are provided to prioritise accordingly. 

‘If the information changes, such as in this incident, that prioritisation can change too.’  

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s analysis of Home Office statistics shows that an average of over three hate crimes are directed at Jews every single day in England and Wales, with Jews more than four times likelier to be targets of hate crimes than any other faith group.

It comes after a viral video earlier this month showed a bus filled with Jewish teenagers being kicked and spat at by a group of men in central London. 

They performed Nazi salutes and hurled abuse at the group, who were also celebrating Hanukkah.  

If you have any information on the attack in West Hampstead, contact police on 101, quoting reference: CAD6588/02Dec, or e-mail [email protected] in confidence. 

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