A knifeman stalked staff asking them if they worked for the government before plunging a blade into a contractor’s head’s outside the Home Office – while carrying teargas and a ferret.
The assailant is said to have approached the stab victim, who works for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), outside Home Secretary Priti Patel’s Westminster HQ.
He is thought to have asked the contractor if he was a government employee before stabbing the man, in his 60s, in the head, leaving him needing urgent hospital treatment.
MailOnline understands a female government employee was also approached by the assailant outside the building prior to the attack.
Dramatic photographs showed the victim ‘full of blood’ being led away by police and paramedics from the site, which was put into lockdown after the incident.
The victim was taken to a major trauma centre, and witnesses said they saw another man putting something into his bag before walking ‘calmly’ down the road.
One man, 29, has been arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm after the assault on Marsham Street in Westminster.
Footage from the scene showed the animal in a basket among other possessions, including a knife holder, a backpack and an Oyster card, which were left behind after the suspect was arrested.
It is believed that the knifeman was holding both tear gas and a ferret when he launched his assault.
Officers are seen loading the pony-tailed man, who is dressed all in black, into the back of a police van in handcuffs following this afternoon’s knife attack.
The Metropolitan Police said the incident is ‘not being treated as terrorism-related’, but said officers are ‘still keeping an open mind with regards any possible motive’.
Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick said: ‘I am deeply shocked by this horrific attack on a colleague today.
‘My thoughts, and those of all my staff, are with him and his family. We are ready to provide as much support as we can and we all wish him a speedy recovery.
‘We will be reviewing security across the MHCLG estate. All our staff must feel safe as they go about their important work.
‘I would like to give my heartfelt thanks to the police, ambulance service and our staff for their swift response today.’
Scotland Yard officers arrested a 29-year-old man on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and possession of CS spray before taking him to a police station.
Police said they were not ruling out terror as a motive, following unconfirmed reports that the victim was an employee targeted due to him wearing a Home Office pass.
It comes just days after Home Secretary Priti Patel, who has an office in the building, gave police increased powers for stop-and-search amid a knife crime epidemic.
Items including ‘self defence’ spray, coins, a train ticket from London to Birmingham, keys, a receipt and an Oyster card were seen on the ground behind a cordon.
An office worker opposite the building described seeing a man – thought to be the perpetrator – walk calmly down the road following the incident shortly after 1pm.
She said: ‘He was standing over there outside the Home Office and then he was putting something away in his bag, but I didn’t see a knife or anything.
He was putting something away and then he just calmly just walked off down the road as if nothing had happened.
‘Then people were being asked to go into the Home Office, they were being ushered in.’
Eyewitness Guy Ellis, 54, described seeing a man remove a ‘long’ knife from his bag before the incident.
‘I was sat outside the Home Office waiting for a friend to meet for lunch and on the other side of the entrance I just saw a bloke take a knife out of his bag, and just wander up the path, stop in front of two girls who were just sat there having a chat, and then he wandered back and turned round and crossed the road very calmly and merged into the crowd.’
He said the knife was ‘long and thin’ and ‘pointy’, and described the man as 6ft, slim, with long, dark hair in a ponytail and said he was ‘scruffily’ dressed.
Salvatore D’Auria, 41, manager of a restaurant opposite the building, said: ‘There was an old man coming out of the building with police and a paramedic covered with blood. He had his jacket on and it was ripped at the back.
‘He was covering his face and blood was on his face. I was right there when I saw the man coming out. He was without a shirt but the jacket was on and ripped.’
Police officers were seen arriving on motorcycles and cars at the scene on Marsham Street, with ambulances and paramedics also in attendance.
Witness Gareth Milner said he was eating his lunch on the wall outside the building when ‘a number of armed police officers arrived on scene and entered’.
‘Some time later a gentleman with quite a bloodied face and with dressing pressed into his face was escorted out of the Home Office by paramedics,’ Mr Milner added. ‘He was quiet and walking on his own feet, not being physically supported.’
Mr Milner, who works nearby for the Centre for Policy Studies think-tank, said a police officer told him someone had been stabbed, but gave no further details.
Earlier, Mr Milner tweeted: ‘Lots of armed police and a cordon going up outside the Home Office. Gentleman with a bloodied face has been led out by paramedics.’
Shaun Malston, 43, a property manager at Garton Jones estate agents opposite the Home Office, described seeing people running into the building after the stabbing.
‘I suddenly heard a lot of noise and commotion – people shouting – and people running into the Home Office,’ he said.
‘I happened to notice a guy by the tree over there, just sitting to the right of it, and then turned around and was putting something into a backpack.
‘A lot of people sit out there during lunch but he was probably one of the few that was left there because everyone else was running away and scattering, and he just put stuff, whatever, into his backpack and put it back on and just walked down (the road).’
He said he saw the victim walking out of the Home Office ‘with his shirt off, but he had a jacket on and he had blood all down his chest and he had a patch over his eye’.
A barista working opposite the Home Office said she saw a man ‘full of blood’ walking out of the Government building.
The eyewitness said the victim was a man who appeared to be in his 50s and was not wearing a shirt as he walked out of the Home Office with police.
He had just trousers, nothing on top… He was full of blood. He was escorted by police and paramedics… I saw just the police when the police came. He was coming out from the building – the officers come in and take him out.’
Ms Patel tweeted today: ‘All my thoughts are with the victim and their family following horrific unprovoked knife attack on Marsham Street.’
A Metropolitan Police spokesman said: ‘Injuries to a man in Marsham Street SW1 have been confirmed as neither life threatening nor life changing.
‘Police were called at 1.06pm on Thursday, August 15 to Marsham Street, outside the Home Office, to a report of a man with a knife at the location.
‘The Met’s specialist firearms officers attended within six minutes to find a man, aged in his 60s, suffering with knife injuries.
London Ambulance Service attended the address and took the victim to a central London hospital. The injured man’s family has been notified.
‘The incident took place outside the building. Officers quickly detained a 29-year-old man, near to the scene Smith Square who was arrested on suspicion of grievous bodily harm and possession of CS spray.
‘He was taken to a central London police station where he remains in custody. nquiries are ongoing to establish the circumstances of the incident. We are keeping an open mind about any possible motive at this early stage.
A London Ambulance Service spokesman said: ‘We were called at 1:11pm today to Great Peter Street, SW1, to reports of an incident.
We dispatched an incident response officer, a medic in a response car, a motorcycle paramedic and an ambulance crew. We treated a man at the scene and took him to a major trauma centre.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Metropolitan Police is investigating a knife attack which took place outside the Home Office this afternoon. The victim is receiving medical care.
‘This is a deeply concerning incident and our thoughts are with him and his family. As this is an ongoing investigation it would be inappropriate to comment further.’
The Home Office headquarters are located a short walk away from landmarks including Westminster Abbey and the Houses of Parliament.