U.K. police say a three-year-old boy was seriously injured after being “deliberately” targeted in an acid attack.
The incident took place Saturday afternoon at a Home Bargains store in the city of Worcester.
The boy was taken to a nearby hospital and is being treated for substantial burns to both his arm and face.
Chief Superintendent Mark Travis told reporters that the attack against the toddler appeared to be deliberate.
“At this time we are treating this as a deliberate attack on a three-year-old boy,” Travis said.
Police also released images of three men suspected of being involved in the attack.
“The incident will shock the community,” Travis added. “We’re carrying out an enquiries to identify those responsible.”
Rachel Bryant, a 22-year-old woman who went to shop at Home Bargains, described the aftermath to U.K. newspaper The Sun.
“I’d been shopping with my mum and were heading to Home Bargains when there were loads of police and ambulances,” Bryant said. “I saw a woman crying and being comforted by police. I didn’t know what it was all about.”
Police have since arrested a 39-year-old Wolverhampton man on suspicion of conspiracy to commit grievous bodily harm.
Another witness, who asked not to be identified, told The Sun that someone else described the attacker as a “skinny white guy.”
“I heard from someone who works at the shop that the man [who attacked the boy] was a skinny white guy,” the individual said. “He was about 5ft 11ins and he ran out the shop. I think he was caught pretty quick but I don’t know for sure.”
Local residents, including Worcester City Council leader Marc Bayliss, said the attack was particularly shocking given its location.
“Worcester is not that sort of place,” Bayliss said. “We are a quintessential small English city.”
Police, who are still unaware of a motive, are urging anyone with information to contact authorities immediately.
The incident comes as violent crime continues to rise across the U.K.