Three people have been stabbed in central London in what is believed to have been a suspected phone-snatch robbery.
Police officers and London ambulance service (LAS) paramedics attended the scene in Bishopsgate, near Liverpool Street station, on Thursday morning.
Four people were treated at the scene, where witnesses told of seeing men on the ground with bloodied faces.
A cordon was in place along the pavement outside an office building, while pieces of emergency medical equipment, scissors and what appeared to bandages lay on the ground.
Toby Hamand, a software engineer who was cycling to work, told the Guardian he had intervened in what initially seemed to be an altercation before he quickly realised it was a robbery.
“By the time I turned up there was already a big happening, sort of half on the road and half on the pavement, and I was pushing my bike. It was about five or six people but it became obvious that two of them were what you might call ‘bad actors’ who had bandanas covering their faces and noses, and hoods up,” he said.
“There was another guy in a T-shirt and motorcycle helmet who I later realised was one of the guys who had been stabbed and then there was a guy who was trying to break it up and I said something to him along the lines of: ‘Those guys are trying to commit a robbery’.
“One of the guys [with a bandana] was trying to get on his bike – it might have been an electric one – and I kicked his wheels as he tried to leave and made it fall over because my thought process was to keep them there for the police to arrive.
“But then the second guy lifted his hand up to show me he had a knife. It was tiny – maybe not even the size of a pen knife - and he said something along the lines of ‘Fuck off’ or ‘Step back’ and they just left.”
A spokesperson for the City of London police said the incident was being treated as a suspected robbery involving a phone being snatched and was not terror-related.
A police statement said: “We received reports of three stabbings and a person pushed to the floor on Bishopsgate at 9.46am and officers arrived at the scene at 9.51am. Three victims were taken by LAS to a nearby hospital to be treated.
“This is an ongoing situation, but is not being treated as terror-related.”
A London ambulance service spokesperson said three ambulance crews, two advanced paramedics, two incident response officers, a clinical team manager and members of its tactical response unit were sent to the scene.
“Our crews treated four patients. We have now taken three of these patients to hospital and one was assessed and discharged at the scene.”
Saye d Dukanwala, the owner of a nearby newsagent, said: “I was inside my shop and heard some shouting outside and saw people running.
“When I came outside I saw about three or four people fighting. After that I saw four people on the floor with blood on their faces. People were helping them.”
Footage on social media showed several emergency service vehicles on the road by the 22 Bishopsgate skyscraper. Its tenants are from the technology, sustainable energy, financial, asset management and professional services sectors.
A spokesperson said: “We are aware of a distressing incident that took place this morning on Bishopsgate, in the vicinity of our building, and our security team provided the police and emergency services with any necessary support while they were on site.”
Another witness said he saw two or three teenagers on bicycles watching an older man before they grabbed him.
The worker, who asked not to be named, told PA Media: “I saw two or three teenagers on bicycles and they were following this middle-aged man, around 40 to 50, who was smartly dressed.
“The next thing I saw was this teenager grabbing this guy, this middle-aged man. Things escalated so quickly. Pedestrians got involved and they were trying to help the middle-aged man. I heard lots of screams and shouts. The next minute, a man on a white moped saw what happened and jumped off, and got himself involved.
“There was a fight with these teenagers. Out of nowhere, the guy on the moped got stabbed. The middle-aged man was already on the floor at this point after he got stabbed and another pedestrian got hurt too, his head was hurt. The teenagers then just took off.”
He said the knifeman was wearing a fleece mask which people wear to keep warm.