A knife attack at Manchester’s Arndale shopping centre appears to be “more mental health-related” than politically or religiously motivated, the local mayor has said.
Two people are recovering from stab wounds after a man armed with a large knife lunged at shoppers on Friday morning.
A 40-year-old was arrested within five minutes on suspicion of the commission, preparation and instigation of an act of terrorism, and he was later detained under the Mental Health Act.
Counter-terrorism officers continue to lead the investigation and are keeping an open mind about the reasons for the attack, but it is understood no political, religious or ideological motivation has so far been uncovered.
Police have searched the man’s address in Manchester as part of their inquiries.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham held a press conference on Saturday in the reopened Arndale, close to the scene where less than 24 hours earlier the knifeman ran amok.
He said: “Yesterday’s incident in the Arndale centre was deeply distressing for those caught up in it, but of course for everybody across our whole area.
“As the city returns to normality this morning, Greater Manchester is doing what it always does – which is to respond in a considered way, providing support to those who need it, prosecuting those responsible, and of course learning any lessons that may need to be learned.
“We think first this morning of those recovering from their injuries and I am sure I speak for everybody in Greater Manchester in wishing them a very, very speedy recovery indeed.
“This would appear to be an isolated incident so the message very much this morning is it’s business as usual.
“It is important not to jump to conclusions but what I can say is that at this stage, it would appear to be more mental health-related than political or religious motivated – but of course we need to allow the police to conduct their full inquiries and we keep an open mind on that until that work is complete.”
Mr Burnham praised the “bravery and professionalism” of the police and emergency services who attended the incident, who he said were supported by Arndale security staff and members of the public.
Deputy mayor Baroness Beverley Hughes said: “At least one member of the public and a member of the security staff here, I am told, showed outstanding bravery in that situation, and indeed the security staff at the Arndale centre played a very big role in bringing medical supplies and tending the injured people here in this foyer until the ambulance service arrived.
“Across Greater Manchester with our partners – with health, the fire service and local authorities in particular – we do have a robust approach in trying to be as prepared as we possibly can for any situation such as this.
“You never quite know how robust your planning is until you are tested in real time.
“I think we were tested in real time yesterday and the response could not really have been better.
“We take some comfort from that, but we are not complacent and our continued approach to training exercises and developing our cross-agency resilience responses will continue.”
Manchester City Council leader Sir Richard Leese said: “This city does not have to prove its resilience any more. It doesn’t have to prove its ability to come together. It doesn’t have to prove that it won’t allow things like that to stop people going around, living a good life.
“It’s a shopping centre – yesterday it was closed, today it’s open and it’s full of shoppers. That’s the way Manchester will continue to respond if we do have a similar incident of this sort.”
Mr Burnham said the incident had highlighted again the debate on knife crime, but he pointed out there had been a “significant” fall in such offences in Greater Manchester over the summer.
He said: “That was in part due to more targeted use of stop-and-search powers. So one thing I will be asking the chief constable to consider is more use of stop-and-search powers, but of course in a way that is intelligence-led, non-discriminatory, and in partnership with both our local authorities and community organisations.”
A 59-year-old man received stab wounds to his hand and palm and a 19-year-old woman sustained wounds to her arm and armpit – which required surgery – during the incident on Friday.
Another 19-year-old woman suffered a cut to her elbow, a 33-year-old woman received a cut to her stomach and a 43-year-old woman was assessed by medics but appeared uninjured.
The shopping centre is just a few hundred yards from Manchester Arena, where 22 people were killed in May 2017 when Salman Abedi detonated a suicide bomb following an Ariana Grande concert.
In the city last New Year’s Eve, three people including a police officer were seriously injured when a 25-year-old man launched a knife attack on passers-by.
He was arrested on suspicion of attempted murder and will face trial in November.