A 44-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of the murder of 87-year-old Irishman Thomas O'Halloran on a mobility scooter in west London.
He was arrested at an address in Southall, west London, in the early hours of Thursday, the Metropolitan Police said.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Eastwood, who leads the investigation, said: "I would like to thank the public for their overwhelming support following this horrific incident. As a result of the release of a CCTV image yesterday, an arrest has been made and this investigation is progressing at pace.
"Mr O'Halloran's family have been updated with this development and continue to be supported by specially trained officers."
It comes after officers were called to Cayton Road, in Greenford, west London, on Tuesday to reports of a stabbing and Mr O'Halloran was declared dead at the scene.
Detectives believe Mr O'Halloran was stabbed in Western Avenue about 4pm before managing to travel 75 yards or so on his mobility scooter to Runnymede Gardens, where he flagged down a member of the public for help.
To everyone who knew him, Thomas O’Halloran was the “kind old man” with a beard who busked outside his local train station in London, most recently raising money for victims of the war in Ukraine.
But on Tuesday afternoon the 87-year-old, originally from Ennistymon, Co Clare, was brutally stabbed to death as he rode his mobility scooter down a London street.
Mr O’Halloran was attacked in Greenford’s Cayton Road at around 4pm by at least one knifeman, who police described as “extremely dangerous”.
He managed to travel around 75 yards on his mobility scooter, shouting desperately for help before succumbing to his wounds.
Neighbours rushed to help and tried administering first aid before paramedics arrived.
Mr O’Halloran was declared dead at the scene, with his attacker having already disappeared, either into the surrounding streets or an underpass beneath the A40 Western Avenue.
London police last night released CCTV images of a man, armed with a knife, running from the scene. They said they want to identify him as “a matter of urgency”.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Eastwood, who is leading the investigation, said: “He is clearly a dangerous individual and people are advised not to approach him, but to call us immediately on 999 if they know him or have any information regarding his whereabouts.”
While Mr O’Halloran, who was said to be married with a number of children, had been living in London for many years, he still had close connections in Ennistymon, including a sister, two brothers, as well as nieces and nephews.
Local Fianna Fáil councillor Shane Talty said: “He left Ennistymon as a young man but remained in contact with family here. Terribly sad way to see a long life brought to an end.
“Sympathies of all the Ennistymon community to the extended O’Halloran family at this difficult time.”
Among those who knew him in London, Mr O’Halloran was remembered as a “very kind man”.
Hitesh Patel (62), a shop owner at Greenford station, said Mr O’Halloran had three children and would often play the accordion on his mobility scooter outside Tesco and Greenford station to raise money for Ukraine victims.
“People used to call him Mr Bond because he would drive around on his scooter and rev the engine,” said Ms Patel.
“He has lived here a long time, maybe 20 years. My husband saw him yesterday at about 11am near to where it happened on the A40. I know his wife as well. He had quite a few sons, I think.
“Every day he would come and play here. We knew it was him because he had a Ukraine flag on his scooter and he used to raise money for charity.”
Mr O’Halloran was widely known among members of the local community in Greenford, who described their shock yesterday that a harmless pensioner should have been so violently attacked.
Emotional security workers at the Tesco in Perivale said that for the past six or seven months Mr O’Halloran had “brought a smile to people’s faces” by playing the accordion for an hour and a half every lunchtime.
One security guard, who did not wish to be named, said: “He was a very kind man. The nicest man. He made everyone very, very happy when he would come here and play. He was a special man.
“I am going to miss him very much. He brought a smile to people’s faces. Already people are laying flowers outside the store.
“He was here yesterday at lunchtime. I must have seen him a few hours before he was killed. I was talking to him just then. When I left yesterday he said ‘have a nice evening’. I am going to miss him and his music.”
Laura Golda (39), who works at Coffee and Co just outside Greenford station, said: “He would come every day and was a lovely person.
“We don’t understand what happened. He was lovely and was liked.
“He was never a nuisance and never fought anyone. I don’t know why anyone would hurt somebody like that?
“He used to play the accordion every day. He used to have a little basket with a Ukraine flag to raise money for the country.’’
Frasley Coutinho said the stabbing took place right in front of his house and he caught some of the incident on CCTV.
“I saw a couple of people gathering around him and then he drove past and stopped further up, and then there was a group of young boys around him.”
Mr Coutinho added: “It is terrible. This is a peaceful area. It happened in broad daylight in summertime on a busy road as well.
“I see him all the time. I have lived here for the last few years and he was jolly. We would say ‘hello’ to each other. He was quite a peaceful guy going on his way.”
Mr O’Halloran, who posted footage of himself playing the accordion on YouTube in October 2020, would spend most of the day outside Tesco in Perivale before moving to Greenford station to collect money to help victims of the Ukraine war from evening commuters from around 4.30pm.
Nick Lambi (72), who knew Mr O’Halloran, said: “I know these things can happen, but it is so disconcerting and worrying for this area. It is very rare that a man of this age can be attacked in such a way.”
Fay Terrelonge (63), one of Mr O’Halloran’s neighbours, said: “I knew him and he was a lovely man.
“No one had a bad word to say about him. Obviously, we are all shocked and upset by this.
“He was helpful. Any time you needed help or if you had something broken he would fix it. He helps any time he can. He would never just pass someone without speaking to them. He was always friendly.’’
Jennie Peston-Howe (44), who lives opposite the pensioner’s house, added: “He was a nice old gentleman. He was a nice neighbour and we used to chat occasionally.
“He was just a really decent person who would help with anything you want. If you had a problem or if something was broken he would try and help out. He was into cars. He was just a really sweet old man who wouldn’t hurt a fly, that’s why it is so scary. There is no way he would have provoked anyone.
“He raised money for charity and would always do it near Greenford station. I think he lived with his grandson.’’
Detectives have released images of a man they say they want to identify as “a matter of urgency”.
He was armed with a knife and wearing grey shorts, a dark T-shirt, a white baseball cap and white patterned builder-style gloves.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, tweeted: “I’m devastated that an elderly man was killed in a horrific attack...My thoughts are with the victim’s loved ones.”“I’m in close contact with @MetPoliceUK who have an additional uniformed presence in the area. I urge anyone with information to come forward.”