On a balmy summer night last July, a 30-year-old food delivery man named Jabed Hussain was steering his motorized scooter down the quaint streets of East London when another motorbike carrying two riders pulled aside at a stoplight. It was around 10:25 p.m. The riders flung a liquid in Hussain's face.
"I started to feel the burning, and I knew instantly what it was," Hussain told The Washington Post last August. "Because this is what we are all fearing."
Hussain flipped off his helmet. One of the attackers jumped on his moped and both fled. Screams brought neighbors to the street. "The first thing they did was remove his T-shirt," a witness told the Guardian. "They said very calmly, 'We are going to pour water into your eyes, you need to keep your eyes open.'"
But within 25 minutes, Hussain's attackers had struck another motorbike rider. Then 15 minutes later, another rider was attacker. Then another. All told, London's Metropolitan Police Service would document six acid attacks on London motorbike riders within a 90-minute window.
Two suspects were believed to be behind all the incidents. It was a frighteningly concise example of a growing criminal trend across the British capital, and the source of Hussain's fear - delivery men and other riders were being attacked for their vehicles; the weapon of choice was acid.
This week, one of the individuals behind the July attacks pleaded guilty to criminal charges in Wood Green Crown Court, the Times reported. Derryck John, 17, pleaded guilty to six counts of throwing a corrosive liquid with the intent to disable, burn, maim, disfigure or cause grievous bodily harm, four counts of attempted robbery and two counts of robbery. One victim of the attacks suffered "life-changing" injuries, according to the court.
Judge Noel Lucas read a statement from the defendant at the hearing. "The other male involved was much older than me," the statement said. "I really didn't appreciate the damage that would be done. I am terrified of the sentence I will receive. I am very sorry for what I have done."
As The Post reported last year, London has seen a significant spike in attacks with acid-based liquids like bleach, ammonia and drain cleaner. Police tracked 700 attacks in 2016, double the number of such incidents in 2015. A law enforcement official told the paper the numbers will likely increase by another 50 percent in 2017.
The attacks have mainly targeted motorbike riders, including people who deliver food. Riders told the Guardian they alert one another to attacks with WhatsApp, and collectively rush to the scene of an incident "to scare the boys off or help [the victim] look for his bike."
Other new common precautions include caution about when to raise a helmet's visor. "I don't open it until the customer sees me, because they come next to you at the traffic lights and throw acid in your face," a delivery driver told the paper. "If I lose my eyes what would I do?"
John was arrested the day after the 90-minute crime spree in July. He was caught after crashing a moped. He initially pleaded not guilty to the charges. A second unnamed defendant is awaiting trial on similar charges from the attacks.
John's sentencing is scheduled for March 9.
Hussain, the first rider injured in the spree, told the Independent he was concerned John's youth could mean he will receive a light prison sentence. "I just want to see the time in prison he gets," he said. "A lot of these criminals are under 18 so are we going to let them do whatever they want to? That makes me angry."
(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)