An Afghan refugee who has been hunted by police for three days was reportedly in a relationship with the woman he allegedly doused with chemicals in Clapham on Wednesday night.
As pressure mounted on police to catch Abdul Ezedi, a relative confirmed that he had been in a relationship with the 31-year-old mother he is alleged to have attacked.
The “close relative” said they were concerned about Ezedi and vowed to “bring him in by myself if I have to”.
Urging Ezedi to give himself up, they told Sky News they were “worried about” him and wanted to “find out if he is alive or dead”, adding: “His injury is very bad and he needs medical attention.”
The woman attacked with a corrosive alkaline substance remains “very poorly” and sedated in hospital, with her injuries thought to be “life-changing”.
The injuries to her daughters, aged three and eight, are “not likely to be life-changing”.
Police had previously said the suspect and the injured mother were known to each other.
It came as the search for the fugitive went into its third day, with police urging the public to remain alert after he was last seen at London’s King’s Cross Tube station where he boarded a southbound Victoria Line train.
As the manhunt continues, a Royal Air Force helicopter believed to be helping in the hunt for Ezedi was pictured circling Hampstead Heath in north-west London on Saturday.
Photographs showed the crew scouring the landscape from the cockpit of the helicopter as walkers looked on.
Police have urged the 35-year-old from the Newcastle area, who is described as having very “significant injuries to the right side of his face”, to hand himself in.
Ezedi’s younger brother said he would not hesitate to hand him over to police.
Hassan Ezedi, 21, spoke after riot squad police officers in Hazmat suits raided his east London home at 2am on Friday in the search for his brother.
Officers wearing gas masks and blue chemical suits and carrying shields stormed the hostel in Leyton, east London, where Hassan lives.
Urging his brother to give himself up, Hassan said: “If I knew where he was, I’d turn him in for what he did. I don’t know if he’s alive or where he is now.”
He added: “I saw him briefly last week. He wasn’t living with me. He was in Newcastle.”
Another resident, 20-year-old Kami Bowden, said: “It was scary because the police had Tasers in their hands.
“They were shouting quite loudly. We could hear them smacking on my door. They told me to walk backwards out of the room with my hands on my head.
“They took us to the other side of the road and said it wasn’t safe to be in the premises.”
In footage of the raid, police can be heard telling residents “Basically we’re here because we are looking for someone... but it’s not safe for you to be in here.”
An officer later asks: ‘Have you seen anyone with an injured eye at all?’
On being asked why there were officers in Hazmat suits, officers reply: “There’s a hazard in there that we have to be aware of.”
Metropolitan Police Commander Jon Savell said “significant and important pieces of evidence” were recovered in the searches carried out in east London and Newcastle.
Two empty containers labelled with corrosive warnings were found at an address in Newcastle, and forensic tests are checking whether they held the substance used during the attack.
Making a direct appeal to Ezedi, Commander Savell said: “Abdul, you clearly have got some very significant injuries. We’ve seen the images. You need some medical help, so do the right thing and hand yourself in.”
It is understood that Ezedi, a pizza shop worker who lived in the Byker district of Newcastle, may be receiving help from relatives in Afghanistan.
A friend told The Telegraph that Ezedi topped up an international pay-as-you-go mobile phone in Newcastle shortly before he travelled to London.
The fugitive had visited a shop in the Byker area near where he was living in a hostel for the homeless.
Pay-as-you-go devices are often used by county lines criminal gangs to run drug dealing operations because non-contract mobile phones cannot easily be traced by police.
Ezedi’s use of a contract free phone means he could be getting support from friends or relatives in Afghanistan, helping him stay one step ahead of police.
The row over the way Ezedi was granted asylum in the UK despite having a conviction for a sex offence shows no sign of abating.
He was convicted of a sexual assault/exposure offence at Newcastle Crown Court in 2018 and handed a suspended sentence and an unpaid work order, which was completed two years later. He was also put on the Sex Offenders Register for 10 years.
His application to remain in the UK was approved by an immigration judge in 2021 or 2022 after he claimed that he had converted to Christianity and would be persecuted if he was returned to Afghanistan.
Ezedi was allowed to stay in the country after a priest confirmed he was “wholly committed” to his new religion,
Alan Mendoza, of the Henry Jackson Society counter-extremism think tank, said: “That he was allowed to stay after an obviously false conversion to Christianity highlights the continued problem of the complicity of various British institutions in what has become a pro-asylum industry. The consequences of this are frequently devastating.”
Catholic Church leaders in Newcastle have said they do not believe Ezedi converted to Catholicism before he was granted asylum.
Sources told The Telegraph they had “found no evidence” that Ezedi had used its churches to convert, although he had been given help by a Catholic charity in Newcastle in the form of food, clothes and toiletries.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle said: “After checking local parish records and central records and after consulting with clergy we have no indication that Abdul Ezedi was received into the Catholic faith in this diocese or that a Catholic priest of this diocese gave him a reference. We do not know which Christian church received him nor which Christian minister gave him a reference.
“We can confirm that Abdul Shakoor Ezedi visited our diocesan Justice and Peace Refugee Project, a charitable venture which assists a wide range of people who come to us in need.
“We are in the process of checking if this individual was received into the Catholic faith in any of our parishes, and have so far found nothing to support that. We are also investigating whether he was helped in other ways. The diocese will assist the police investigations in any way we can.”
The Church of England has said it is currently not aware of any links to its churches, with a spokesman adding that it was “the role of the Home Office, and not the Church, to vet asylum seekers and judge the merits of their individual cases”.
Ezedi left Newcastle in the “very, very early hours” of Wednesday. He travelled south to the capital and was in the Tooting area by around 6.30am, police say.
His vehicle was seen again in Croydon, south London, at around 4.30pm and by around 7pm he was in Streatham.
During the attack, at 7.25pm, he allegedly threw the mother’s younger child to the ground, before attempting to drive away from the scene, crashing into a stationary vehicle and fleeing on foot.
Minutes later he boarded a tube at Clapham South Underground station, and by 8pm he was at King’s Cross Tube station.
Forty-two minutes later Ezedi was captured on CCTV in Tesco on the Caledonian Road in north London, pictured with a “fairly significant facial injury” buying a bottle of water, before leaving and heading right.
He then got on a Victoria line Tube at 9pm heading south, in what was the last confirmed sighting.
A Clapham resident who suffered injuries from the chemical attack on Wednesday said she has “never witnessed anything so horrific in my life”.
The bystander said she was the first person to call police after hearing screams on Wednesday.
Rachael, who chose to withhold her surname, told The Times: “The screaming was so intense, it sounded like something serious was going on out there. That made me go outside.
“Initially I thought it was a car crash. But then I did see the man take the [youngest] child out [of the car] and I saw him throw the child – and just run off down the road. I called the police and an ambulance.
“I realised that the mum, her entire face was covered with the liquid and I knew it was some sort of acid or something.”
Police issued a fresh appeal on Saturday evening urging the public to remain vigilant and help them catch the Clapham attack suspect.
Scotland Yard said that its investigation team had received dozens of calls and was working with a large number of police services and other agencies, including British Transport Police, Northumbria Police, the National Crime Agency and Transport for London.
Mr Savell said: “I want to thank everyone who has contacted police to share what they know. We have received dozens of calls with information, including possible sightings, and every single piece of information has been recorded and forms part of our ongoing investigation.
“I can assure the public that my colleagues and I are fully committed to using every available tool and tactic for as long as it takes to find Abdul Ezedi.
“I am today urging the public to remain vigilant and to contact police immediately if they may have seen Ezedi or have information about him.
“I would also like to reiterate that if you see Ezedi, you should call 999 immediately. He should NOT be approached.”