82-year-old Palmira Silva, a widow and grandmother has been beheaded outside her home in North London. She was attacked by a 25-year-old man wielding a machete. Before attacking the old woman, the assailant had attacked a passing car and a cat after which he roamed back gardens apparently searching for a victim.
Apart from Silva, police believe he tried to attack other victims, though some of them escaped without injuries.
The man was arrested after armed officers, who had distracted him to prevent further attacks, cornered him in a house and brought him down with a Taser stun gun. Some officers were injured.
Mrs Silva, who was of Italian descent, was pronounced dead at the scene.
One line of inquiry for detectives is understood to be that the man was inspired by recent footage of terrorists beheading two American journalists in Syria.
Some residents claimed last night that the suspect was a local man who had converted to Islam last year, but those claims could not be verified. Detectives said they had ruled out terrorism.
Witnesses described seeing police smash windows of neighbouring properties, carry screaming children and lead terrified residents to safety.
One neighbour told of her narrow escape. Freda Odame, 30, a catering worker, said she heard a commotion and pulled back her curtains to see a man in his mid-20s with a knife.
“Someone was shouting and the door was banging. I could hear the screaming but I could not hear what he was saying,” she said.
“I could see that he had a big curved knife, about the size of an arm’s length and he was crouching as if frantically searching for something. He had a crazed look in his eyes so I closed my curtains because I was scared.
“My next door neighbour was in his garden but did not seem to realise anything was going on. I have seen him around here all the time, I think he lives on the road. I think he lives with his family. Five minutes after I heard him screaming the police knocked on my door and told me I had to get out.”
Another neighbour described seeing a man brandishing a machete and shouting about cats and said that he saw a headless cat as he watched from his window.
The man, who did not want to be named, said: “There was a scream so I went to the windows and saw a guy with a machete with blood dripping from it.
“He was standing in the garden and walking up and down shouting about cats.”
The knifeman then appeared in the witness’s garden and began swiping at plants, he said. “He started cutting roses. We were just trying to call the police.” Sue Mahadooa, 50, who saw police cars screech to a halt outside her home, said officers ran down the street shouting at people to get out.
Police with battering rams began breaking down front doors and smashing windows to help residents to safety, unaware of which property the killer was in.
Ms Mahadooa said the property where the woman is believed to have been killed is split into three maisonettes and police were desperate to get its residents out without sending them into the shared corridor.
“These officers ran up and started trying to help these two children and a woman out of the little top window of the ground floor,” she said. “The woman couldn’t get through the window so they started smashing the bigger one, but then I saw them get her out of the front door.
“She was very frightened. The kids were crying and looked very scared. There was clearly something awful going on inside.”
George Stylianou, another neighbour, said: “Policewomen were sprinting past and screaming at us, ‘Get back – you don’t understand how dangerous this man is’.”
Earlier one witness had tweeted: “Madman on the loose with a machete in Edmonton.”
Andy Love, the Edmonton MP, said: “I am absolutely horrified
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and stunned by what has happened in my constituency. This is a relatively solid community with relatively good relations between all of the people.”
Ricardo Kwiek, 23, a taxi driver, saw a young man fighting with police after officers stormed a property. He said the man was bundled into a van.
“There were policemen trying the front door and the back. The chap inside wasn’t letting them in,” he said. “They got in the back door. They came out with a man who was struggling and fighting. He wasn’t giving up. I could see loads of police fighting with him.”
A neighbour who knew the victim said that she still went to work every day. “Her husband died about five years ago. I think she came from Italy originally. I was speaking to her yesterday. She was weeding in the front garden, she loved her gardening,” the neighbour said.
“I think maybe today she was in the back garden. She was such a sweet lady. She was slow getting around but she still went to work. I think after her husband died that kept her going.”
Ms Silva’s family run a café in Edmonton Green called Silva’s Café. She was seen there every day. Mehmet Ungun, 41, at Aksu Food Centre, said: “She is a very nice woman. She same in nearly every day to buy supplies for the café. She helped out with the younger generations of the family.”
Commander Simon Letchford, of the Metropolitan Police, praised the bravery of officers, saying they “put themselves in extreme danger to protect the public”.
Det Chief Insp John Sandlin, leading the investigation, added: “We are confident that we are not looking for anyone else at this stage. Whilst it is too early to speculate on what the motive behind this attack was I am confident, based on the information currently available to me, that it is not terrorist related.”
The man was last night being treated for minor injuries suffered when he was arrested.
Meanwhile, another 40-year-old man armed with a knife was shot dead in Islington after he was found threatening a woman. The police heeded distress calls from neighbours and had to shoot when moves to disarm him were unsuccessful. He was pronounced dead en route the hospital.