The victim, 51 – who has not yet been named – had just got on a South Western Railway train near Guildford, Surrey, with his 14-year-old son when he was repeatedly knifed in front of terrified lunchtime commuters.
Superintendent Paul Langley from British Transport Police has described the incident as a “violent and deadly” attack, while a witness said there was “blood everywhere.”
“Traumatically, the victim’s son would have been nearby when his father was fatally wounded,” Supt Langley told a press conference at Horsley station this evening.
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“This would have been an horrific and hugely traumatic event to have witnessed and we are providing him with as much support as possible.”
The suspect has been described as a 6ft black man, aged 20-30, with a beard, believed to be dressed all in black with white trainers, who fled the train at the next stop in Clandon shortly after the stabbing.
Members of the public are being urged not to approach him, while police confirmed they are looking into a number of sightings.
It has emerged that a man matching this description reportedly approached a dog walker and told her he “was in trouble.”
Meanwhile, witnesses said that punches were thrown in the “vicious fight” before the victim was stabbed in the neck and died at the scene. It’s not clear what sparked the confrontation.
One female passenger, who asked not to be named, said: “There was a lot of blood everywhere in the carriage. I don’t think the poor chap stood a chance.
“The police who were here first started to give him CPR but it was apparently too late to save him and he died while the train was in the station.”
Crew members – including the driver – have been hailed heroes for the way they handled the distressing incident on the 12.58pm Guildford to London Waterloo service.
Police are now searching for the killer who boarded the train at the same stop as the victim in London Road, Guildford at 1.01pm. The pair are not thought to be known to each other.
The “fight” broke out in one of the carriages and minutes later the attacker is believed to have fled at the following stop in the quiet village of Clandon at 1.07pm.
The train continued to Horsely station, four minutes away, where it arrived at 1.11pm and paramedics battled in vain to save the man.
Officers have sealed off the stations in Clandon and Horsley and helicopters are circling the area.
Supt Langley added: “We know that the suspect also boarded the service at London Road station, however at this time we do not believe they are known to each other.
“We also know that the suspect left the train service at Clandon station, and headed in the direction of Dedswell Drive.
“There have been a number of sightings in this areas from members of the public and our enquiries are focusing in on these areas.
“We have a number of officers in the area working hard to trace the man responsible for this violent and deadly attack. We are working close with Surrey Police and the National Police Air Service who are helping us to locate him.
“The suspect is a black man, in his twenties to thirties, approximately 6ft tall and of slim build with a beard, believed to be dressed all in black with white trainers.
“At this moment I would ask the public to please contact police urgently by calling 999 if they see anyone matching this description – please do not approach him.”
A resident claimed she saw a man dropping his hat as he fled through a field near the Clandon station.
Another woman, who did not wish to be named, added: “A man was seen in a field. He had no hair on his head but had a black beard. Someone said he had been seen in a field and accosted a woman walking her dog.
“He apparently said to her ‘I am in a lot of trouble’, before he dropped his hat and ran away. The hat was later recovered by the police who are examining it for forensic clues.”
Another Clandon resident took to a neighbour website and said: “Please be vigilant as I just came across a mid 20’s, slim build, black beard, bald suspicious man wearing a black track suit walking around our neighbouring field, very sweaty and nervous.
“He walk (sic) to the bottom then stood in the woodland, walk back up. I asked him what he was doing and he said he had an accident?.
“Our road is private and so is the field. He walked off on the phone and didn’t want to chat. There was no reason for him to be there!
“Called police as he’s dropped a blooded hat in field.”
“This incident is not believed to be terror related,” they said.
Tonight, police and mortuary workers were seen carrying a body bag across the footbridge at Horsley Railway station and into a private ambulance.
Oliver Thompson, a 16-year-old student living in Clandon, said he was stopped by police in the area at roughly 2.30pm and asked if he had seen a “man running from the station”.
Shortly afterwards, he saw police helicopters circling the area before being joined by “a police van with high-powered lights” as conditions darkened.
He said: “It comes as a big surprise as Clandon is a quiet area that you wouldn’t associate with crime like this.
“It is definitely unnerving to think there is a murderer maybe somewhere in the village.”
A woman who lives near the station told Surrey Live: “It’s horrific. Nothing like this has happened in this area before.”
Meanwhile, one passenger has praised the train staff. She said: “I was on this train, how those guards and especially that train driver went into action was nothing short of incredible.”
Other passengers said a ticket inspector and driver sprung into action to desperately try and save the man before emergency services arrived.
A BTP spokesman confirmed they were called at 1.15pm to reports of a stabbing and attended with colleagues from Surrey Police and the South East Coast Ambulance Service.
They said: “The victim suffered a fatal stab wound and despite the best efforts of officers and paramedics, he sadly died at the scene.
“A number of officers are now in the Clandon area, attempting to identify and trace the man responsible for this assault. No arrests have been made at present.”
Detective Superintendent Gary Richardson from British Transport Police, said earlier today: “This was a shocking and violent attack which took place on-board a train in broad daylight.
“Officers from BTP are with the family and have deployed a specially trained family liaison officer to support them through this difficult time.
“We know that this was an incredibly frightening incident for passengers travelling on the train.
“We believe that the suspect and victim boarded the train at London Road at 1.01pm and we would encourage who was on this train to come forward regardless of whether or not they think they can help our investigation.
“We believe the suspect departed the train at Clandon station.
“Passengers and members of the public can expect to see an increased presence by BTP and Surrey Police officers at Horsley and Clandon as our enquiries continue.
“We would advise anyone in the local area who sees anyone they think maybe the suspect to contact 999 immediately.”
South Western Railway said the train line between Guildford and Effingham Junction towards London Waterloo was blocked for almost seven hours while police responded to the incident.
The train operator said all lines had been reopened with services returning to normal, but warned that some trains on the route may be delayed by up to 10 minutes or revised.
The disruption is expected to last until 11pm.
Replacement buses were earlier laid on for passengers and tickets were being accepted on some Southern Railway and Stagecoach bus services.