World News

Acid attack leaves London delivery driver in life-threatening condition

Posted November 3, 2017 7:47 a.m. EDT
Updated November 3, 2017 12:11 p.m. EDT

— A teenage boy has been arrested in London after an acid attack left a fast-food delivery driver "fighting for his life" and likely to go blind.

London Metropolitan Police said that two delivery drivers were attacked in separate acid attacks on Thursday evening.

In both cases, the drivers were targeted by two males on a scooter as they attempted to steal their victims' mopeds. Police are working to establish whether the same pair carried out both incidents or if they may have been coordinated.

The assaults are the latest in a sharp rise in acid attacks in the British capital. The number of attacks rose to 454 last year, up from 261 in 2015. They are predominantly reported in the city's east.

A corrosive substance "was repeatedly thrown on the victim's face," police said of the first attack. The 32-year-old driver was assaulted in the east London district of Walthamstow at around 6 p.m.

"This attack has left a man fighting for his life and with terrible eye injuries. This was an innocent man going about his work as a delivery driver, who may never see again," said Gordon Henderson from the Waltham Forest borough police.

The second driver was attacked around half an hour later in Tottenham, in London's northeast. The victim, also 32, had acid sprayed on his face, but his injuries are not believed to be life-threatening or life-changing, police said.

Food delivery drivers, who often work on mopeds, have become soft targets of acid attacks in the city.

In July, two teenagers on a scooter carried out five acid attacks in one evening in London, in an attempt to steal several mopeds, some of them from delivery drivers, according to prosecutors in the case's legal proceedings.

The UK government announced plans in October to ban the sale of acid to minors and prevent people from carrying corrosive liquids in public, in response to the dramatic increase in attacks. Many of the attacks are carried out with everyday cleaning items readily available at grocery and hardware stores.

Police say that acid attacks in London were once typically carried out by men against women close to them but are now predominantly used between young males, often in the context of urban gangs. Many cases against women, however, have also been reported this year.