A 19-year-old man arrested over the murder of a US tourist in Russell Square has been described as a “little gentleman” and a “nice, quiet kid”, as police continue to investigate the knife rampage.
Zakaria Bulhan, a Norwegian national of Somali origin who moved to the UK in 2002, remains in police custody after the attack in central London on Wednesday night, which left US citizen Darlene Horton, 64, dead and five others injured.
Police have said the incident appears to have been triggered by mental health issues rather than being terror-related.
Friends and neighbours have expressed shock at the arrest of Bulhan, a former student at Graveney School in Tooting, south London.
Neighbour Parmjit Singh Bhamra described Bulhan as a “quiet, academic boy who was a bit of a loner” who liked football, basketball, and music.
Mr Bhamra, 36, a sound engineer who lives in the flat below, said: “It is shocking news. It is almost absurd because the young guy himself, Zac, is quite a little gentleman. He is quite polite, quite posh, quite academic.”
Two police officers remained on duty outside the Bulhan family home.
Mr Bhamra, who said he had known Bulhan for around seven years, said he was a “good boy” but “very impressionable” and could have been influenced by Somali friends in the area.
He said Bulhan, who is unemployed, lived at the flat with his brother, sister and mother.
A family friend said that Bulhan called an ambulance six months ago because he wanted to harm himself and had called paramedics on two other occasions recently for the same reason, The Times reported.
But Mr Bhamra questioned the suggestion of mental illness, saying: “
I have lived here 30 years — I have never seen an ambulance here or him being rushed to hospital.”
One former schoolmate said: “He was a quiet, nice kid who had banter with people. He was just a nice kid.”
Ms Horton, the wife of a university professor from Florida, was just hours away from flying home when she was killed in the attack.
She was visiting the capital with husband Richard Wagner, who was teaching summer classes .
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