Armed police helped save two young children by plucking them from inside their home after a man believed to be armed with a machete beheaded a woman in a back garden of a residential street.
Palmira Silva, 82, was found dead behind a house in Edmonton, north London, after the armed suspect ran through a number of back gardens in the street after attacking a cat and a car with a knife.
Officers cornered the suspected killer inside one of the houses and arrested the man after a scuffle when officers fired a Taser.
As news of the killing emerged there were immediate fears it could have been a copycat or revenge attack for the beheadings of American journalists by Isis, but Scotland Yard said there was no suggestion that the attack was terror-related.
There was also no indication of anybody else being involved, the force said. It added that while formal identification has yet to take place, its officers were satisfied that the 82-year-old was the victim discovered in Nightingale Road.
Senior officers declined to speculate on the motive for the attack although there were suggestions online that the man was a well-known figure in the area of Edmonton, north London.
It was not clear whether it was a random attack. The 25-year-old suspect was being treated for his injuries during the arrest and police declined to say if he was under the influence of drugs, alcohol or suffering from any medical condition.
In a fast-moving incident just after 1pm, dozens of police cordoned off the street before shouting at people to leave their homes, according to witness.
One man, who watched the operation unfold, said that officers smashed windows and pulled two young children through a small window at the front of one house in Edmonton, north London.
“When I saw two cars of armed police coming down then we knew it was really serious,” said Khairul Islam, a taxi firm boss.
He said he thought the family being evacuated were of Afghan origin.
“There were people inside the houses. I saw two children – aged about three and five or six – come out from a small window on the ground floor.
“They smashed the window and police pulled them through the window. Then I heard later that the guy was arrested.” He said that he also saw a woman rescued from the house.
Police officers distracted the man to stop him from attacking anyone else while they evacuated families on the road, said Commander Simon Letchford of the Metropolitan Police. They cornered him inside one of the houses and one of the officers is believed to have broken his wrist during the scuffle, he said.
“They did everything they could to evacuate people from those premises. Clearly they were aware of what had happened and they put themselves in extreme danger to protect the public, to ensure that his behaviour was stopped as soon as it possibly could be,” said the officer.
Locals said that police went round the houses ordering them to leave. Muhammed Yusuf said, “Police knocked on the door and said: ‘You’ve got to get out of the house’. Of course I was worried.”
His son Ahmed, 19, said: “At first there were two police cars, then all of a sudden there were 20. The police said to drop everything. I said ‘What’s going on?’ and they said there’s a guy jumping over gardens.”
Ms Silva's family have been alerted.
The arrested man is currently in hospital. Police will decide after he has been treated when he can be interviewed.