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Knife attacker under police guard

A crazed knife attacker who beheaded an 82-year-old grandmother after killing a pet cat remains in hospital under police guard as officers wait to question him.

The 25-year-old murdered Palmira Silva in Edmonton, north London yesterday, after going on the rampage through back gardens ranting about cats.

Police were forced to stage a dramatic evacuation operation to save neighbours, and an armed squad Tasered the knifeman as he struggled against officers, leaving one with a broken wrist.

Today staff in shops near the cafe that the Italian pensioner ran were stunned by news of her death.

Silva's Cafe in Church Street, near Edmonton Green station, was shuttered up as local people tried to come to terms with the tragedy.

Dilek Solma, 19, working behind the counter in a fruit and vegetable shop next door, said: "I'm so upset. She was a very smiley lady, always had a smile on her face, and loved the community. If somebody dropped something in here, she would help pick it up. Although she was 82, she was younger than me, and I'm 19.

"I don't know what the world's coming to."

She had known Ms Silva for three years, since she started working in the fruit and vegetable store.

Sales assistant Raj Thangavelselvaraj, 50, who works in a newsagent next to the cafe, said: "She would come in to buy greetings cards for her grandchildren. She was a nice lady, she was a good lady to everyone. It's very sad."

Yesterday w itnesses described seeing a man dressed in black, waving a machete weapon as he wandered screaming and shouting through back gardens.

A neighbour who knew Ms Silva said the widow was "such a sweet lady" who had lived in the house for more than 25 years and still went to work every day.

The neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she was "devastated" by what had happened.

She said: " She was such a sweet lady. She was slow getting around but she still went to work. I think really after her husband died that's what kept her going."

The house in the busy street where Ms Silva's body was found was the scene of a major police operation that continued into the night.

Scotland Yard said that its officers distracted the man after he was seen going through back gardens in Nightingale Road to prevent him attacking anyone else, while they evacuated people from nearby homes.

Officers from the Met's homicide and major crime command are also investigating an attempted attack on two people at another house in the road before Ms Silva was killed.

Restaurant worker Freda Odame, 30, said she was about to go to sleep after working a night shift when she heard a commotion.

She said: "I heard shouting and banging and I opened my curtains and saw a guy holding a knife in a back garden a few doors along. He was screaming, I couldn't make out the words. I could see he seemed aggressive. He looked a bit frantic."

She said the man was waving a weapon around towards the floor.

"It was like he was looking for something on the floor," she said. "I was shaking and I just shut the curtains. I was worried he might see me.

"Then the police knocked on the door and said 'You've got to get out, you've got to get out'."

Ahmed Yusuf, 19, said: "At first there were two police cars, then all of a sudden there were 20. The police said to drop everything. I said 'What's going on?' and they said 'there's a guy jumping over gardens'."

Another local resident described seeing a man brandishing a machete and shouting about cats.

The witness, who did not want to be named, said he also saw a headless cat as he watched the drama from his window.

The man said: "There was a scream so I went to the windows and saw a guy with a machete with blood dripping from it. We saw a cat on the floor without a head.

"He was standing in the garden and walking up and down shouting about cats."

The knifeman then appeared in the witness's garden and began swiping at plants, he said.

He went on: "He started cutting roses. We were just trying to call the police. You can't think anything in that situation. He asked our neighbour if he had seen a cat and the neighbour was afraid and walked inside."

At one point the man climbed on top of a garage, he said.

"He appeared in the alleyway and I saw him raising the machete," the man said. "Then he came to a front door and nobody answered so he started to bash the windows."

Metropolitan Police commander Simon Letchford said police were trying to establish the attacker's motive, but there are no signs of a link to terrorism.

He said officers smashed house windows to get people out after the man had been "cornered" in a house.

He said: "They (the officers) did everything they could to evacuate people from those premises and clearly they were aware of what had happened and they put themselves in extreme danger to protect the public, to ensure that his behaviour was stopped as soon as it possibly could be."

He confirmed that police were called to the scene by initial reports of a man attacking an animal, a cat or a dog, at 1.07pm.

A stretch of Nightingale Road remained cordoned off and forensics officers could be seen at the front of the house.

Two 16-year-old friends, Matthew Hutchings and Alfie Loveday, who live nearby, said they were waiting for a bus when they saw all the police activity yesterday.

"There were police vans arriving fast, a police helicopter and a helicopter ambulance," said Alfie.

His friend added: "It's freaked me out. We didn't know the lady but it's a terrible thing to happen. Usually I go to sleep really quickly, but not last night."

A pensioner wept after delivering roses, which were accepted by an officer at the cordon.

"I knew her and I worked for 10 years at a cigarette company with her son - I know him as Reno," said Sylvia Lewis, who declined to give her age.

"I think what happened was downright disgusting. She was a lovely lady, she didn't have a bad bone in her body.

"To get to 82 then have that happen, she didn't deserve that. Her son must be devastated."

Myrvin Kirwan, an installer with the Virgin media company, said he came face to face with the bare-chested knifeman.

He said: "I could hear the helicopter overhead but was getting on with my work when the customer came downstairs and said 'Who's that?'.

"I looked out through the glass doors into the back garden and then I saw him - bloody hands, machete, and no shirt.

"The customer shut the door within seconds, then the police came in saying 'Get out of the house, get out of the house'."

He said the knifeman was black, about 5ft 10in tall, and stocky.

"He was looking through me," he said.

He was waiting to get his van back today from within the cordoned-off stretch of road.


From Belfast Telegraph