Two men, aged 23 and 26, and a 17-year-old girl have been arrested on suspicion of attempted murder by officers investigating a “brutal attack” on a young asylum seeker in Croydon on Friday, Scotland Yard said.
The 17-year-old, a Kurdish Iranian, remains in a serious condition after a “savage” attack by a gang in an apparent hate crime left him with a fractured skull and a blood clot on his brain.
He was waiting at a bus stop with two friends outside The Goat pub in Croydon, south-east London, when the group approached them, the Press Association reports.
Local media quoted neighbours saying that a group of up to 20 people watched the gang attack.
After discovering he was an asylum seeker they chased him and launched a vicious assault, repeatedly kicking him on the floor and aiming blows to his head.
His two friends escaped with minor injuries, Scotland Yard said.
Six people - four men and two women all in their twenties - were arrested on Saturday. One has been released with no further action and the five others remain in custody.
DS Kris Blamires from Croydon CID said: “At this early stage it is believed that about eight suspects approached the victim as he waited at a bus stop with two friends outside the Goat Public House in the Shrublands.
“It is understood that the suspects asked the victim where he was from and when they established that he was an asylum seeker they chased him and launched a brutal attack.
“He has sustained serious head and facial injuries as a result of this attack, which included repeated blows to the head by a large group of attackers.
“A number of people came to the aid of the victim as he lay unconscious and injured following the assault.
“The suspects are believed to have made off in the direction of the Goat Pub, Broom Road following the attack.
“I would encourage all those who came to his aid and those in the immediate area who witnessed the attack or saw the males leave the scene to get in touch.
“All communities stand together against hate and we would ask anyone with any information to come forward immediately.”
Chief Superintendent Jeff Boothe, Croydon’s borough commander, called it a “savage attack” and said it was only the intervention of passers-by and the arrival of police that stopped it being worse.
The incident prompted a wave of condemnation, with Tory minister Gavin Barwell, Croydon Central’s MP, describing the attackers as “scum”.
Boothe told the Press Association: “A number of bystanders and eyewitnesses tried to intervene and say to the attackers that enough is enough.
“By all accounts they didn’t actually stop until the sound of police sirens were heard in the background.”
The attack happened in Shrublands Avenue at 11.40pm on Friday.
Detectives are investigating whether some of those involved had been drinking in The Goat in Broom Road, Boothe said.
The “close-knit community” has been left shocked by the ferocity of the attack, he added, and extra officers have been out and about to reassure people.
He said: “This is not usual for the area, it is out of the norm. This is not Croydon, Croydon is a very diverse community - they celebrate their diversity and as recently as Thursday at the town hall we had a number of leaders from different faith groups saying we are all united and stand together.”
He added: “Hate crime is something which we understand can be very, very divisive. Croydon is culturally diverse and we need to continue to celebrate that.
“We are appealing to all decent people from whatever background they come from to help us identify the individuals that are involved in this isolated attack.”
Barwell said: “I think most people in Croydon will be as appalled as I am that what appears to have happened is a young man who came to this country seeking sanctuary has apparently been targeted because of his ethnic background.
“It’s an appalling crime and I hope the people responsible are caught quickly and receive the full force of British justice.”
He said Croydon generally had “very good relations between people of different backgrounds”.
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott suggested the Conservatives had failed to get to grips with hate crime.
She said: “Sadly this is not an isolated incident but part of a sustained increase in hate crimes that this Tory Government is yet to offer any effective response to.
“With right-wing politicians across the world scapegoating migrants, refugees and others for their economic problems, we are seeing a deeply worrying rise in the politics of hate.
“We must make clear that there is no place for anti-foreigner myths, racism and hate in our society.”
Anyone with information should call police on 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.