Arrest after stabbing at Home Office in Westminster leaves man in hospital

An office worker was left with serious injuries after being stabbed in the street outside the Home Office by a man who then “casually” strolled away from the scene.

A 29-year-old man  was arrested shortly after the office worker, believed to be a civil servant, was stabbed outside the Marsham Street building.

Metropolitan Police officers were called at 1.06pm to reports of a man stabbed across the face and stomach. Paramedics initially treated the injuries as "life-threatening", although it was later established they were not as serious as first feared.

There were reports the man was seen carrying “an albino ferret” in a pet cage and asking staff outside the building whether they worked there.

A man was arrested in nearby Smith Square on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and possession of CS gas and taken to a police station and armed officers set up a cordon on Marsham Street.

Police officers stand in the entrance of the Home Office after the incident Credit:  Stefan Rousseau/PA

Police recovered the ferret inside its pet cage, a rucksack containing coins and a rail ticket, and a knife holder close to where the man was arrested.

The victim was later revealed by Robert Jenrick MP, the Secretary of State for Housing, to be a civil servant at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. He appeared to have been targeted  because of his staff security badge. Security at all Whitehall departments is being reviewed.

Scotland Yard said officers had yet to rule out whether the attack was terrorism related.

John Hay, 58, a stonemason, was working on a building site in Smith Square where the suspect was arrested at the bottom of steps leading into The Footstool Restaurant, a stone's throw from the Home Office.

He said: "I heard some noise and came out and saw a bloke on the floor with two cops sitting on him, so you couldn't see what he looked like. There was about six or seven armed police officers pointing a gun at him as he was handcuffed, and about six others at the end of Lord North Street as backup."

Images posted on social media show a bloodied, shirtless man in his 60s wearing a suit jacket and trousers being led from the Home Office by a paramedic and an armed officer.

Police officers inspect items, including a bag and a sheathed knife, at Smith Square in central London  Credit:  TOLGA AKMEN/AFP

Witnesses reported seeing bloody tissues in the entrance hall, where staff had tried to administer first aid on the injured man. 

One staff member said employees have been told not to leave the building.

Shaun Malston, 43, a senior property manager at an estate agents opposite the building,  described seeing a man - thought to be the attacker - walk calmly down the road after the incident. He told The Telegraph: "I was sitting at my desk and suddenly heard a whole lot of commotion, saw people running in different directions and into the Home Office. Home Office security guards came out shouting at people to go inside. 

"I went outside and there was a bloke sitting on a ledge by the Home Office. Everyone else was running around but he just stood up and put something in his backpack then walked off down the road.

"At the time I didn't realise he had anything to do with what was going on. I walked back towards the office and saw a couple standing outside. They said 'it's him, it's him, the man with the backpack on, he was the one waving the knife around!'

"I said 'isn't anyone going after him?' He was slim but tallish, darkish hair, youngish - probably in his 20s. He just looked like a bystander, he was very casual."

Salvatore D'Auria, 41, who manages a restaurant opposite the Home Office, said: "I saw a man come out, he was in his 50s and there was blood all over his face and front. 

"It looked like his shirt had been ripped at the back. There was police and paramedics everywhere."

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, has promised to recruit more police officers and give them the power to stop and search members of the public without being required to have reasonable suspicion.

Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, said: "All my thoughts are with the victim and their family following horrific unprovoked knife attack on Marsham Street."

A Home Office spokesperson said: “This is a deeply concerning incident and our thoughts are with him and his family.”

Officers will now be able to impose “section 60” stop and search laws on areas where they think violence could break out after Mr Johnson lifted restrictions on their use.

The Home Office earlier this week described the crackdown as a “pilot”, but admitted that it had not waited for results to come back from seven areas that initially tested the change before rolling it out across all 43 forces in England and Wales. There has long been an argument over the effectiveness of ‘stop and search’ in reducing knife crime.