A man armed with a machete and a hammer shouted “white power” as he launched a savage attack on an Asian shopper who was buying his lunch in a supermarket in North Wales, according to witnesses.
A 25-year-old man was held on suspicion of attempted murder, following what is believed to have been a racially motivated assault in Tesco in Mold on Wednesday.
The victim, a 24-year-old Sikh man, suffered what police described as “life-changing injuries”, but was saved from being more seriously hurt when other people in the store overpowered the attacker.
Police believe the suspect was operating on his own, but are looking into whether he was part of a wider group. They were given extra time to question the man today.
The horrifying scenes came amid heightened tension following the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris, but it is understood that there is not thought to be any significant link to events in France.
Eyewitnesses said the “huge knife” used by the attacker looked like “something out of [the film] Crocodile Dundee”. Colin Cooper, of Leeswood, near Mold, told The Daily Post newspaper: “I heard a lot of shouting to start with. They called for security over the loudspeaker. Then 30 seconds or a minute later this lad was being helped by a couple of staff saying, ‘Get me an ambulance.’ The lad attacked was Asian. He had his hands in front of his stomach. I couldn’t tell whether his hands were cut from protecting himself or if he’d been stabbed.”
Rich Fay, a 20-year-old student, said he heard screams coming from an aisle in the supermarket. “In one arm the man had a knife and in the other I believe it was a hammer,” he said.
It is understood the suspect was known to the police, but it is not thought he had a record for violent assaults. There were unconfirmed reports that he had been in the Army.
Detective Chief Inspector Alun Oldfield, who is leading the investigation, said: “Initial indications are this is a racially motivated attack and management of the community impact will feature significantly in order to provide public reassurance.”
There has been concern about far-right groups’ using the murders of 17 people in France by three extreme Islamists, brothers Saïd and Chérif Kouachi and Amedy Coulibaly, as an excuse for violence.
The Muslim Council of Britain (MCB) said it was “monitoring unfolding developments in Birmingham” after Muslim-owned businesses were shot at and attacked with hammers on Saturday and Monday.
Witnesses claimed groups of men damaged shops, restaurants and other premises in the Small Heath and Sparkbrook areas of the city. Police have said the motives for the attacks are not known.
The MCB said in a statement: “We hope that these remain isolated incidents.”
West Midlands Police said that it was not believed that the attacks were religiously motivated. It added that they had increased police patrols in the area to reassure local people.