In the hours before midnight when the nation would be welcoming in the New Year, terror returned to Manchester.
Just before 9pm and yards from the Manchester Arena, where 22 people, many of them children had been murdered in a suicide attack, all hell was about to break loose.
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Between platforms A and B at Manchester Victoria Metrolink tram station, a man dressed head-to-toe in black mounted a frenzied and sustained attack on a couple in their 50s waiting patiently for a tram.
He screamed ‘Allahu Akbar’ - meaning ‘God is great’ - while stabbing at them with two knives, one in each hand.
“I just heard this most blood-curdling scream and looked down the platform,” said Sam Clack, 38, a BBC producer on a New Year’s Eve night out, “What it looked like was a guy in his 60s with a woman of similar age and another guy all dressed in black.
“It looked like they were having a fight but she was screaming in this blood-curdling way.”
The screams alerted British Transport Police officers on patrol at Victoria train station, which stands in the same complex as the tram stop and the nearby Manchester Arena.
Four officers, unarmed but for standard issue Taser stun gun and a special incapacitating gel, raced to the scene. The suspect, said to be of Somali origin, was carrying two kitchen knives, each about 12-inches long.
Mr Clack thought the attacker was coming for him next.
“I just had a feeling in the pit of my stomach,” said Mr Clack. “Here’s a man who’s very agitated, angry, skittish. It appears he had already attacked someone. He had police coming towards him and he’s coming towards me.
“I looked down and saw he had a kitchen knife with a black handle with a good 12-inch blade. It was just fear, pure fear.”
Mr Clack thought about jumping on to the tram tracks and running for his life. Other passengers already had. But before he needed to flee, the police at breakneck speed had pounced.
Video footage shows four British transport Police officers pinning the knifeman to the ground, including one female officer. They had tried to taser him and in the melee one officer - a sergeant in his 30s - was stabbed in the shoulder.
The suspect was then dragged away to a police van, shouting ‘alahu akbar’ while the victims sat on a bench on the station platform being treated for their wounds, tended to by female police officers.
A Muslim woman, wearing a hijab, put her arm around the injured female victim. Nazir Afzal, a former prosecutor, tweeted: “The woman with hijab helping victims is far more reflective of Muslims than the idiot with a knife.”
Andy Burnham, Manchester’s mayor, said last night the “vile attack” could have been “much more serious if not for the outstanding bravery from British Transport Police who were instantly on the scene”.
He suggested its location had been deliberately picked to cause maximum impact because of its proximity to the Manchester Arena, scene of the barbarous suicide bomb attack in May last year.
“This attack has brought back some very painful memories for everyone involved,” Mr Burnham told the Telegraph, “Particularly given how close it was to the Manchester Arena, which appears to have been deliberate. But the city is strong, united and resilient and the way the incident was dealt with by the emergency services and others was exemplary.”
Yesterday, police raided a newly built semi-detached house in a street in Cheetham Hill, a mile north of the city centre. Police said it was the last known address of the 25-year-old suspect.
Neighbours said police arrived at the address in the morning. Tactical Aid Unit vans were stationed outside, with a policeman stood guarding the door.
Nousha Babaakachel said a Somali family live at the address, a mother and father of five in their forties who came to live in the street around 12 years ago from the Netherlands.
Mrs Babaakachel, 40, said two of the four sons are at university, one works at Manchester Airport and the youngest is back in Somalia. They also have a daughter.
Well-placed sources said the suspect was believed to have been suffering from serious mental health issues and who had acted alone.
By last night, Manchester was coming to realise it had had a narrow escape. The city has the bravery of police officers to thank for that.