Acid attacks: Muslim man who had 'half face burned off' in Luton speaks out to offer £10,000 reward for information

Exclusive: Victim appeals for help to catch culprits still at large over a year after horrific assault

Lizzie Dearden
Sunday 16 July 2017 10:30 BST
Mr Khan, the victim of an acid attack in Luton, who did not wish to be identified
Mr Khan, the victim of an acid attack in Luton, who did not wish to be identified

An acid attack victim is offering a £10,000 reward in a desperate effort to track down the men who remain on the run more than a year after “burning half his face off”.

Mr Khan, who did not wish to use his real name, was opening up one of his businesses in Luton when he was approached by a stranger who had been waiting in a car outside.

“He said, ‘are you going to open that shop?’ and I said, ‘yeah, why?’” Mr Khan told The Independent.

CCTV shows man police want to speak to in relation to acid attack in Luton on 19 May 2016

“I was a bit hesitant because the way he approached me wasn’t normal.

“I didn’t want to let him inside because he just looked out of place.

“He then got a bottle – he pressed on it and it released this very cold liquid that hit my face.”

The 30-year-old did not realise what he had been hit with until he felt a burning sensation on the hand he used to shield himself.

Mr Khan after the acid attack in Luton last May (Supplied)

“There was a chemist next door so I ran next door and asked for a glass of water, I threw it on myself,” Mr Khan said.

“It felt like there was a type of glue stuck to my face.

“I put my head under the tap and when I lifted it up and looked in the mirror and I realised my skin was burning off.”

Mr Khan said his attacker, a bald white man wearing a light hoodie and dark jeans, escaped in a pale blue Ford Fiesta driven by an accomplice.

He was taken to hospital for treatment and has suffered scarring, as well as lasting trauma from the unprovoked attack.

“Half my face was burned off,” Mr Khan said. “Luckily I didn’t need a skin graft because I got water on it straight away.

“The scars might go away but mentally it’s been a strain – I’m really paranoid when I meet new people, I feel anxious every time I go out of the house.”

Five acid attacks carried out across London

No one has been arrested for the attack in Leagrave Road, Luton, on 19 May 2016 and police are continuing to appeal for information.

Mr Khan still has no idea who attacked him or why, having received an “Osman notice” from the police months before the incident warning that an unidentified suspect was trying to kill him.

But officers did not give further information on the nature of the threat or who was behind it, and Mr Khan does not know whether the warning was linked to the acid attack.

“I’m just a young businessman who lives in Luton, I’m not involved in crime or anything…. I’ve never wronged anyone,” he said, adding that the ordeal has forced him to sell his businesses.

“I think this was a targeted attack, but I really don’t know why.

“I’m offering a £10,000 reward for anyone who can tell me who these people were or give information that leads to a conviction.”

Cousins Jameel Mukhtar and Resham Khan before they were attacked with acid in June in a suspected hate crime (Gofundme)

The victim said he initially suspected that the two attackers were “sent to do a job” but is now wondering whether he was targeted as a Muslim.

Mr Khan said: “There’s a lot of hate crime going on, people are trying to promote violence against other types of people, it’s not on.

“I think if I was either a woman or a white man this would be blown right out of proportion,” he said, adding that there would have been campaigns for justice.

Mr Khan is speaking about his ordeal for the first time in an appeal to track down the culprits and raise awareness following a spate of acid attacks in the UK.

Five victims were targeted by two attackers on mopeds within just 90 minutes in London on Thursday, while a similar attack injured a man the following day.

Two teenage boys are in custody, while a suspect has appeared in court over an unrelated attack in June that left cousins Resham Khan and Jameel Mukhtar with life-changing injuries.

In April, clubbers in east London were caught up in a mass attack that injured 20 people, and there are fears that acid is becoming a new weapon of choice for criminals and gangs.

A police cordon at the scene of one of five acid attacks on Thursday night (AP)

Figures from the National Police Chiefs’ Council suggest that more than 400 acid or corrosive substance attacks were carried out in the six months up to April 2017, based on returns from 39 forces in England and Wales.

Acid attacks were previously dominantly associated with “honour” crimes by men aiming to disfigure female victims, but have been used in the UK for crimes including robbery, rapes and assaults motivated by personal disputes – mainly targeting men.

Mr Khan is among the survivors and politicians demanding tougher prison sentences for culprits and restrictions on the sale of corrosive substances to combat the growing crime.

He was rendered “speechless” by the frequency of attacks in recent weeks and called for acid to be treated like guns or knives.

“It’s disgusting that someone can so easily obtain that kind of liquid and change someone’s life,” he said.

“Attackers should get 15 years – minimum.”

Bedfordshire Police said they had received a complaint from Mr Khan, which is under investigation, and had launched a renewed appeal on the Crimewatch Roadshow last month.

Anyone with information is urged to contact police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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