2016 Russell Square stabbing

On 3 August 2016, a mass stabbing occurred in Russell Square, London. Six people were stabbed, one fatally, before a suspect, identified as Zakaria Bulhan, was apprehended by police and charged with murder and attempted murder. The media initially linked the stabbing to terrorism, but later shifted its focus to possible mental disorders.

Russell Square stabbing
LocationRussell Square, Bloomsbury, London, United Kingdom
Coordinates51°31′18″N 0°7′34″W / 51.52167°N 0.12611°W / 51.52167; -0.12611
Date3 August 2016 (2016-08-03)
22:39 (UTC+01:00)
Attack type
Mass stabbing
PerpetratorZakaria Bulhan


London's Metropolitan Police Service and London Ambulance Service arrived at the scene of the attacks six minutes after emergency services were called at 22:33. Less than ten minutes later, a man was arrested at the scene after being tasered by police.[1][2][3]


Six people, apparently selected at random, were stabbed.[4] A 64-year-old American, Darlene Horton, died at the scene. She had planned to fly back to Florida the following day.[5][6][7][8] An American man, a British man, an Australian man, an Australian woman, and an Israeli woman were injured.[7][9] The British man, Bernard Hepplewhite, underwent emergency surgery for a serious abdominal wound and remained in hospital for several days.[10]


Zakaria Bulhan[11] was a 19-year-old male Norwegian national of Somali descent.[5] He was described as a Muslim[12][13][14] who "didn't really talk about religion."[15] He moved from Norway in 2002, and was unemployed and living with his mother and younger brother in Tooting, South London.[1][16][17]

Not long before the stabbing, Bulhan completed his first studies at South Thames College, and had been a patient at a psychiatric facility near Russell Square. According to a family friend, Bulhan called an ambulance three separate times in the last six months, claiming he wanted to harm himself.

In his 2017 book, Media, Diaspora and the Somali Conflict, Idil Osman speculates that the "cultural stigma" associated with mental illness in Somali society makes it less likely that individuals and families of disturbed persons like Bulhan will seek treatment.[18]

Legal proceedingsEdit

Following his arrest, Bulhan was treated in hospital and later held in custody at a police station in South London.[1] On 5 August, he was charged with the murder of Horton, along with five counts of attempted murder.[9][19] He appeared at Westminster Magistrates' Court on 6 August,[20] where he was remanded in custody.[21] The trial was expected to take place in February 2017.[22] In February 2017, Bulhan admitted killing US tourist Darlene Horton and injuring five others in Russell Square in 2016.[23]

He was sentenced on 7 February to be detained for an indefinite period in a maximum security hospital. [24][25]


The Metropolitan Police initially said they were exploring terrorism as a possible motive.[3] They later said the investigation "increasingly points" to the attack being "triggered by mental health issues", and that the stabbings were random. Norwegian police cooperated in the investigation.[5]


In an interview after the attack, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, said, "London is one of the safest capitals in the world". He added, "It is a reality in 2016 – especially when you look at what happened in Nice, in Brussels, in Munich, in parts of America – we've always got to be vigilant and never complacent."[1]

Kenan Malik described the attack as highlighting "the difficulty... in drawing a distinction between jihadi violence and the fury of disturbed minds."[26]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Dewan, Angela; Berlinger, Joshua; Gigova, Radina (4 August 2016). "American killed in London knife attack, 5 others hurt". CNN. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  2. ^ Grierson, Jamie; Dodd, Vikram; Barnes, Richard (3 August 2016). "Russell Square stabbings: man held on suspicion of murder". The Guardian. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  3. ^ a b "UPDATE: Incident in Russell Square". Metropolitan Police. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ Tomkiw, Lydia (5 August 2016). "Who Is Zakaria Bulhan? London Russell Square Knife Attacker Identified, Terrorism Ruled Out As Motive". The International Business Times. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  5. ^ a b c "Russell Square stabbings: Man arrested on suspicion of murder". BBC News. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  6. ^ "Russell Square stabbings: Darlene Horton named as victim". BBC News. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  7. ^ a b Shapiro, Emily (4 August 2016). "London Stabbing Attack Victim Identified as Wife of FSU Professor". ABC News. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  8. ^ Etters, Karls (4 August 2016). "Stabbing of FSU professor's wife shocks Tallahassee". Tallahassee Democrat. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  9. ^ a b "London stabbing suspect charged with murder". Sky News. 5 August 2016. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  10. ^ "Man appears in court charged with murder after London knife attack". Reuters. 6 August 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  11. ^ Evans, Martin; Harley, Nicola (4 August 2016). "Russell Square stabbing suspect and victim are named". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  12. ^ Bentham, Martin; Morgan, Ben; Davis, Barney (5 August 2016). "Police work with mental health hospital as they quiz teenager over Russell Square knife bloodbath". The Evening Standard. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  13. ^ Robson, Steve (5 August 2016). "Zakaria Bulhan: What we know about Russell Square stabbing suspect so far". The Daily Mirror. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  14. ^ O'Carroll, Lisa (5 August 2016). "Russell Square knife attack suspect 'a polite and pleasant boy'". The Guardian. Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  15. ^ Palmer, Ewan (5 August 2016). "Russell Square stabbing suspect Zakaria Bulhan a 'quiet' pupil who was bullied at school". the International Business Times (UK). Retrieved 29 September 2016.
  16. ^ "London knife attack: Everything we know about the Russell Square stabbings on Thursday morning". The Daily Telegraph. 4 August 2016. Retrieved 4 August 2016.
  17. ^ Harris, Dominic (5 August 2016). "'I've never seen any sign of anything that suggest he has problems' - neighbours of man accused of going on stabbing rampage in London". Irish Independent. Retrieved 5 August 2016.
  18. ^ Osman, Idil (2017). Media, Diaspora and the Somali Conflict. Springer. p. 42. ISBN 9783319577920. Retrieved 10 January 2019.
  19. ^ "British police charge Zakaria Bulhan, 19, with London stabbing of American tourist". New York Daily News. AP. 5 August 2016. Retrieved 7 August 2016.
  20. ^ Cumber, Robert (6 August 2016). "Teenager charged with murder of American tourist in Russell Square attack". GetWestLondon. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  21. ^ "Russell Square stabbings: Man remanded in custody over tourist murder". BBC News. 6 August 2016. Retrieved 6 August 2016.
  22. ^ "Rochester man Bernard Hepplewhite among six stabbed in Russell Square attack". Kent Messenger. 9 August 2016. Retrieved 10 August 2016. He was charged with murder and five counts of attempted murder on Friday, and appeared at the Old Bailey this morning. He was remanded in custody until his trial at the Old Bailey in February.
  23. ^ "Russell Square stabbings: Zakaria Bulhan admits killing US tourist". BBC News. 6 February 2017.
  24. ^ "Zakaria Bulhan sentenced for stabbing six people in Russell Square". Kent Online. 7 February 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2019.
  25. ^ "Sentencing remarks of Mr Justice Spencer". UK Judicial Press Office. London. 7 February 2017.
  26. ^ Malik, Kenan (25 March 2017). "How can we distinguish violence driven by ideology from sociopathic rage?". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 April 2017.