However, officers investigating the unprovoked stabbing of Richard Everitt as he walked near his home in north London with two friends have no direct evidence to link his death to the racial attacks.
Yesterday, the atmosphere in the Somers Town area, where almost a quarter of the population is from ethnic minorities, was said to be tense in the wake of the killing.
Police, fearing more tit-for-tat attacks, appealed for calm and urged people not to take the law into their own hands. Uniformed patrols have been increased.
The attack took place between 9.30pm and 10pm on Saturday as Richard and two friends, one 17 and the other between 9 and 13, were walking in Midland Road, at the rear of St Pancras station.
A gang of 10 or 11 Asian youths, aged between 15 and 20, surrounded the trio, but allowed the youngest boy to pass unharmed. The 17-year-old boy was chased by some of the members of the gang and head-butted, but managed to escape and with the youngest boy ran to get Richard's father.
But by the time they got back to the scene a few hundred yards away, Richard was lying on the ground with a stab wound to his chest. He was taken to University College hospital but died shortly after.
Detective Superintendent Derick Dale, who is leading the the inquiry, said a post-mortem examination revealed that the murder weapon was a sharp instrument, probably a kitchen-type knife.
He added that while he could not rule out a racial motive, he had no positive evidence save for the fact that the attackers were all Asian and the victims white.
Chief Superintendent Linda Newham, head of the Kentish Town division, acknowledged that tensions in the area had risen and fallen with the number of attacks in recent months.
Since January there had been 117 racial assaults in the division where 60 per cent of those from ethnic minorities were of Bang ladeshi origin. Of the attacks, 28 were in the Somers Town area, with a quarter on whites.
''The majority of victims have been Bangladeshi,' Chief Supt Newham said. 'But in the past few months we have had a number of white victims. This is a new trend.'
A group of 11 Asians arrested near Euston station shortly after the attack were released on bail last night pending further inquiries after being questioned about Richard's death.
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