Greenford residents on Thursday night demanded to know “where all the police officers have gone” at a community meeting following the killing of pensioner Thomas O’Halloran.
The meeting, hosted by the Metropolitan Police at Greenford Community Centre, was intended to ease fears after the stabbing of the 87-year-old on Tuesday.
A 44-year-old suspect was arrested in Southall, west London, in the early hours of Thursday, around two miles from where Mr O’Halloran was killed.
Within minutes of the start of the meeting, people were asking why police were failing to protect the vulnerable. One woman shouted: “We are a community and we all know one another. I am sorry to ask, but where are all the police officers?”
As the crowd applauded, another said: “More and more we are hearing about the elderly being targeted. We hear about people being surrounded by groups who try to take money from them. Some fight back, others don’t. There are no police stations for us to go to – they are all closing.”
A wheelchair-using resident said she was fearful that vulnerable members of the community were increasingly being targeted.
Metropolitan Police Chief Superintendent Sean Wilson, hosting the meeting, said the force was prioritising putting more officers back on the streets but admitted it was a struggle, because many new recruits “would rather be detectives”.
Earlier, armed police smashed their way into the home of the man suspected of having knifed Mr O’Halloran. Around a dozen officers arrested him following a 30-minute standoff.
Neighbours told how police had the house under surveillance from around 8.30pm on Wednesday before breaking down the door at 1.35am.
Rahul Patel, 28, an accountant who lives nearby and was working late, said: “There was loads of riot gear, guns and loads of people, a dog, armed police – they were circling the street.”
Piera Cheent, 76, who is retired and lives across the street, said she saw the suspect being hauled out of the house.
He said: “Two officers were holding him with his hands behind his back. As soon as he came out of the house, he sat on the floor. Eventually they picked him up and took him away, put him in the van.
“He wasn’t violent but he was resisting, he didn’t want to go. There was screaming and shouting as he went.”
Mr O’Halloran became the 59th homicide victim in the capital this year – the sixth in four days – when he was stabbed to death near Cayton Road, just off the A40, at about 4pm on Tuesday.
He managed to travel 75 yards on his mobility scooter, shouting for assistance, before succumbing to his injuries.
Police said CCTV images of a man they wanted to speak to in connection with the killing had played a crucial part in their investigation.
Shopkeepers and elderly residents said they were “terrified that anything could happen now” following the killing of the music-loving pensioner.
Candy Harris, who works in the local WH Smith store and regularly sold scratchcards to Mr O’Halloran and his wife, said: “He was an elderly man making some money for charity and his family busking.
“On my neighbourhood watch app, everyone is talking about the attack. It has shocked the whole community.”
Other shopkeepers on the nearby Medway Estate said there had been a rise in the number of drug-related incidents in recent months, with addicts regularly causing problems outside their stores.
Niamh Regan, 78, who often uses the path where Mr O’Halloran lost his life, said she was now too fearful to leave her house.
“I’ll be honest with you, I am scared. He was an old man in a wheelchair,” she said. “What chance do I have?"
Mr O’Halloran, who moved to London from the west coast of Ireland at the age of 17, was described as a “lovely person” by his family, who are struggling to come to terms with his death.
Linda O’Halloran, one of the pensioner’s nieces in Ennystimon, Ireland, said the family was finding it “very hard” to process his death.
“We’re the most open-hearted people, but this is very hard for my parents,” she told The Telegraph. “It’s very raw and they’re trying to come to terms with it.”
Those who knew Mr O’Halloran said he would often play the accordion outside Tesco in Perivale and at Greenford station to raise money.
Footage on social media, posted in June, shows him playing the instrument, which he learned as a boy in Ireland, and smiling, with a makeshift blue and yellow collection box strapped to his frame.
One of 16 children, he was among the thousands of young Irish men and women who travelled to Britain after the war looking for work. After settling in London he is understood to have worked several jobs, at one stage as a caretaker.
Ms O’Halloran said that with “nothing” for them in Ennistymon all of the siblings eventually emigrated to London, with a few returning later in life.
The 53-year-old said the whole family “came from a music background”, adding that “they all played accordion and tin whistle, so they are very musically inclined”.
She described her uncle as “a fixer and a genius”, adding: “He used to fix bicycles, radios, televisions, so he did a bit of everything. He was very well liked.”
Martin Conway, a Fine Gael senator for Ennistymon, said: “Prior to leaving here, he worked in a pub. He learned a lot of skills here as a very young boy before he left Ireland.
“Of course he was a gifted musician as well, and this area is renowned for music, particularly traditional Irish music. And he had that gift and he used it for enjoyment and to raise money for charity as well.”
Mr O’Halloran had returned regularly to Ennistymon to visit relatives, most recently 10 years ago for the wedding of a niece in Dromoland Castle, until his reliance on a mobility scooter stopped him making the 500-mile journey.
“This was his base and he will be fondly remembered, particularly by the older generation here,” said Mr Conway. “His family were very proud of his musical gift and the fact that he played.
“They enjoyed his music and endeavours and obviously the people of Greenford enjoyed it as well. Clearly, he was a popular guy.”