The Met Police say the 19-year-old man was walking with a friend, aged 25 in the Thornton Heath area just after 8am on 7 December, 2020, when they were approached by the suspect, a man they say they did not know.
As they walked along Thornton Road towards a pedestrian crossing near Gonville Road, they say the suspect came at them and threw a cup of corrosive liquid over them before running off towards the Thornton Heath Pond roundabout and turning right onto Limpsfield Avenue.
Police note that as the man ran off, his boots could be heard slapping on the ground, suggesting that either his boots were too big for him or was wearing heavy shoes, a detail they are likely hoping might stir the memories of witnesses.
Both victims were taken to hospital following the attack, with the 19-year-old victim, who is Black, suffering permanent loss of sight.
“At this stage, the suspect and the motive behind the attack are unknown – although detectives believe it was a targeted attack and one line of enquiry is that it was racially motivated,” the Met Police said in a press release.
They also believe this may not have been the first time that the suspect has targeted the 19-year-old victim.
Exactly three months before, on 7 September, 2020, they say a man had approached the victim’s residential building in the Thornton Heath area and told him over the building’s intercom system that he had a letter for him.
When the victim went down to talk to him, a moment police say was captured on CCTV, the suspect punched the 19-year-old twice in the face with a bicycle chain wrapped around his fist before walking away.
The suspect is described as being an either white or Asian male with a slim build. He was seen wearing a black-hooded jacket and dark-coloured trousers and shoes or boots.
on both occasions, police say the suspect was wearing a light blue medical mask and a dark coloured baseball cap.
Police sought to highlight the case on Wednesday, with Detective Sergeant Natalie Reseigh appearing on BBC One’s ‘Crimewatch Live’ to appeal for further information.
“The corrosive substance attack was a violent and unprovoked assault on two innocent victims and we are doing everything in our power to bring the person responsible to justice,” she said, asserting that: “the victims were left shaken, injured and their lives have been changed forever as a result of this individual’s actions.”
“The bicycle chain attack, which we believe was carried out by the same person, was also vicious and unprovoked. Whoever committed these offences is obviously dangerous and we need to get him off the streets,” she said.
The detective noted that a white van had been in the street at the time of the bicycle chain attack and said she believes the driver may have witnessed the assault.
“Moments after the attack, the white van reversed and the driver appears to have spoken to the suspect before he walked off. We’d really like that van driver to come forward as we believe he could have crucial information that might help us find the person involved,” she said.
“I would urge anyone with information about either attack to come forward and speak to police or to Crimestoppers anonymously.”
Crimestoppers is offering a reward of up to £5,000 for information it receives exclusively either online at Crimestoppers-uk.org or at 0800 555 111 that leads to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for the acid attack.