John Tomlin: Man jailed for 16 years for acid attack on two cousins in east London

Acid attacks becoming 'all too common an occurrence' in London, judge tells court

Lizzie Dearden
Home Affairs Correspondent
@lizziedearden
Friday 20 April 2018 14:25
CCTV footage shows John Tomlin attacking cousins with acid in East London

A man who doused a student and her cousin with acid in a “vicious” attack has been jailed for 16 years.

Resham Khan had been celebrating her 21st birthday with Jameel Mukhtar when they were targeted in Beckton, East London, on 21 June last year.

Police said John Tomlin approached the vehicle and squirted acid at the pair through a passenger window after starting an argument with Mr Mukhtar on the pavement.

Ms Khan began screaming as the liquid started to burn and her cousin tried to drive away, but was blocked by parked vehicles.

As he tried pull out into the road and escape, Tomlin ran around the car and threw more acid onto Mr Mukhtar through his window.

CCTV shows Tomlin trying to continue the attack by running alongside the car until he could not keep up, in full view of shoppers in the busy street.

He then fled after Mr Mukhtar, who was temporarily blinded, mounted the pavement and crashed a short distance away.

The 37-year-old previously told The Independent he remembered the liquid feeling cold, and then starting to burn, melting through his skin, clothes and shoes.

Jameel Muhktar, 37, in hospital following an acid attack on 21 June

He dragged Ms Khan out of the passenger seat, stripping off her burning clothes and banging on the doors of nearby homes for water to wash off the burning liquid.

Witnesses described disturbing scenes as clothes melted off the victims, with the acid strong enough to burn through the seats and dashboard of Mr Mukhtar’s car.

A member of the public took both victims to hospital in his car but the time they received treatment they had suffered life-changing injuries and needed significant surgery and skin grafts.

Tomlin, 26, was identified by witnesses and arrested weeks later when he handed himself into police following a manhunt, having slept rough to evade officers.

He pleaded guilty to causing grievous bodily harm with intent and inflicting grievous bodily harm at Snaresbrook Crown Court, where he was jailed on Friday.

Tomlin was sentenced to 16 years' imprisonment for each offence, to run concurrently, for each offence with an additional four-year extended licence where he will be monitored.

The judge also ordered that he serve at minimum of two thirds of the sentence before being released.

Judge Sheelagh Canavan described the assault as “somewhat random” and told Tomlin that no sentence could give back to the victims what he took from them.

"The court can only hope that in time and with help they can begin to put the consequences of your unprovoked attack behind them - it is undoubtedly a life's work,” she added.

Damage to Jameel Mukhtar's car following an acid attack by John Tomlin on 21 June 2017

"It is becoming all too common an occurrence on our streets that members of the public are pouring water over people who have had acid thrown over them, as if this is some sort of fashionable assault that is being carried out."

Tomlin, of Colman Road in Canning Town, told police that he was "hearing voices in my head".

He has been diagnosed as emotionally unstable with a personality disorder and has a number of previous convictions, including violent offences, robbery, burglaries and theft, the court heard.

Both victims are still being treated for extensive burns to their faces and bodies, while suffering permanent scars, depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Mr Mukhtar suffered third-degree burns and injuries to his eye and ear. Following the sentencing, he branded Tomlin an “animal” and “coward”.

“The sentence isn't long enough, my life has finished, I'm in continuous pain, I can't sleep and I can't eat,” Mr Mukhtar said.

“Something needs to be done about acid attacks, I don't feel this was a strong enough sentence. This will carry on now.

“He should have been given life, he should have done the whole of his life in prison.

“If this was in America he could have been given the death penalty, that's what he deserves.”

Ms Khan, a student at Manchester Metropolitan University and aspiring model, suffered burns to her face, shoulder and legs and damage to her eyes.

Speaking outside court, she thanked all the medical staff and police who have helped her, adding: “I hope to push through and get on as if it never happened.”

Detective Sergeant Dion Brown, of the Metropolitan Police, said: “This was a vicious attack, which has left two victims with substantial injuries that will stay with them for life. Both victims still require treatment for the burns they suffered that day and my thoughts are with them as they continue their recovery.”

Tests showed that Tomlin used a strong substance equivalent to hydrochloric acid, with the horrific attack coming amid a spate of robberies using acid that drove a government crackdown on sales and new laws.

"Acid attacks can inflict terrible, disfiguring injuries and cause excruciating pain - those who cause such injuries can expect severe consequences when they are brought to justice,” DS Brown said.

"That is why the sentence today reflects the extreme seriousness of this crime.”

Helen Taylor, of the Crown Prosecution Service, said the weight of evidence left Tomlin with “no choice” but to admit his crime.

“This was an appalling attack that left the victims with physical and psychological scars,” she added.

“The sentence imposed today will serve to protect the public and I want to thank the victims for helping the prosecution to secure this outcome.

“This case serves as a warning of the harm acid can cause and that those who use it as a weapon can face significant prison sentences."

Additional reporting by PA