00:51 - Source: CNN
American killed in London knife attack

Story highlights

Victim stabbed to death was American woman in her 60s, police say

"We have found no evidence of radicalization," official says

London CNN —  

The wife of an American professor was killed and five others injured in a knife attack in central London’s Russell Square in what police Thursday called a “spontaneous” assault.

London Metropolitan police identified her as Darlene Horton, 64.

Darlene Horton
METROPOLITAN POLICE LONDON
Darlene Horton

The stabbings late Wednesday night rattled the city and came just hours after authorities announced an increased police presence there following recent terrorist attacks across Europe.

Police said Bulhan is a Norwegian national of Somali origin, and “so far we have found no evidence of radicalization,” Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley said Thursday.

Norway’s National Criminal Investigation Service said the suspect emigrated from Norway in 2002. It was unclear if he immigrated to the UK.

Rowley said the main line of inquiry is focusing on mental health issues, essentially ruling out terrorism as a likely motive.

Journalists and others gather as police guard the attack scene Thursday in London's Russell Square.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
Journalists and others gather as police guard the attack scene Thursday in London's Russell Square.

Officials briefed on the investigation told CNN earlier that they believed the attack was terrorism, based on the initial evidence.

“Whilst the investigation is not yet complete – all of the work that we have done so far increasingly points to this tragic incident as having been triggered by mental health issues. At this time we believe this was a spontaneous attack and the victims were selected at random,” Rowley told journalists.

Police said two other women and three men were wounded. The victims were from Britain, Israel, Australia and the United States.

An earlier police statement said two remained hospitalized.

Dying in family’s arms

Police were called after 10:30 p.m. Wednesday following reports of a man “seen in possession of a knife injuring people” in central London’s Russell Square, the Met Police said.

Officers used a stun gun on the suspect, and he was arrested less than 10 minutes later, authorities said.

He was treated in the hospital and is in police custody at a south London station, police said.

A 40-year-old Brazilian man living in London told CNN a Spanish family stopped and asked him to call an ambulance on Wednesday night.

“I thought someone had collapsed or passed out, that was my first impression,” said Fernando, who did not want to give his last name.

He said one of those family members was holding the dying woman and helping and reassuring her. She had been stabbed in the back, Fernando said, adding that he was in shock.

“It was not nice to see someone dying,” he said.

Philippa Baglee told CNN she saw the aftermath of the attack when she went outside a bar to have a cigarette.

“I came out of the Atrium (bar) to have a cigarette, and I saw people standing over there looking at the ground. I could see someone laying down and a guy with a motorbike helmet balanced on his head just walking up and down,” she said.

Janet Pavely, who was with Baglee, said people had to be “very self-aware” when out in public now.

“It could happen anywhere. I don’t think it would stop us from coming back. We were lucky last night. We were going to walk, we took a cab instead. Who knows?” she said.

A woman lays flowers at the scene of the knife attack in London's Russell Square  on Thursday.
Jack Taylor/Getty Images
A woman lays flowers at the scene of the knife attack in London's Russell Square on Thursday.

Police presence beefed up

Londoners woke up Thursday to a heavier police presence on their streets after the attack in the heart of the city.

Rowley said it was “to provide reassurance and safety. We ask the public to remain calm, vigilant and alert.”

A police officer guards the scene of the knife attack Thursday at Russell Square in London.
Carl Court/Getty Images
A police officer guards the scene of the knife attack Thursday at Russell Square in London.

Mayor Sadiq Khan told CNN that he wanted to reassure people across the globe “that London is one of the safest capitals in the world.”

“It is a reality in 2016 – especially when you look at what happened in Nice, in Brussels, in Munich, in parts of America – we’ve always got to be vigilant and never complacent,” he said.

Khan said it was reassuring that the police investigation found the suspect was not an ISIS-inspired extremist, but someone who appeared to have mental health issues.

Armed police response units were at the scene within six minutes of the attack, he told CNN.

One Twitter user identifying herself as a resident in the Russell Square area thanked the London police for their quick response.

A city rattled

The attack, however, left both Londoners and foreign visitors shocked.

Mohammed Jithin, 28, an Indian tourist visiting with his family, said he had walked past Russell Square on the day of the attack.

01:09 - Source: CNN
London's armed cops readying for terror attack

“I studied in London, so I used to come here frequently. It makes me fear because I have my family with me – I’m not the student anymore. … There is an insecurity feeling now throughout our visit,” he told CNN Thursday outside the British Museum near the crime scene.

An ambulance crew removes a body from Russell Square early Thursday after a woman was killed.
JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP/Getty Images
An ambulance crew removes a body from Russell Square early Thursday after a woman was killed.

Julia Fournier, a 20-year-old student from France, said she was rattled by the attack, which happened close to the dormitory where she is staying. But she said she was not really scared to go out.

“This is something that happens all the time – I’m French. If we have to worry about things like that all the time, we can’t live in peace with ourselves. We can’t feel insecure all the time, but I do feel safer in other parts of the world. I’m used to the city,” she said.

Menna Rawlings, British high commissioner to Australia, said on Twitter she was “shocked to hear of #RussellSquare stabbings; and that Australians are among those injured.”

Russell Square

Russell Square, in the Bloomsbury district of west-central London, is a busy passing point in the daytime to some of the city’s major attractions, including the British Museum and the main buildings of the University of London.

But it isn’t particularly bustling at night compared with other nearby neighborhoods that are home to more restaurants and bars.

In the July 7, 2005, terrorist attacks in London, the most devastating of the four bombs hit the Underground subway line running close to Russell Square. One of the bombs tore apart a double-decker bus in Tavistock Square, a few blocks to the north.

In December, Muhyadin Mire, 29, was charged with attempted murder after authorities say he carried out an unprovoked knife attack in a subway station in London’s Leytonstone suburb.

Journalist Angela Dewan wrote and reported from London, while CNN’s Joshua Berlinger wrote from Hong Kong and CNN’s Radina Gigova reported from Atlanta. CNN’s Steve Visser, Carol Jordan, Phil Black, Joseph Netto, Rachel Clarke, Evan Perez, Michael Holmes, Shimon Prokupecz, Milena Veselinovic, Alex Felton and Elaine Ly contributed to this report.