LONDON – A 3-year-old boy suffered severe burns to the face and arm during a suspected acid attack in England, which investigators said was intentional, police said Sunday.
Chief Superintendent Mark Travis of West Mercia Police are working to identify the substance that burned the child on Saturday in a discount store in Worcester.
A 39-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of plotting to cause serious bodily harm. Three others were sought for questioning and the police released photos to generate public tips.
"At this time, we treat this as a deliberate attack," Travis said in a statement. "The incident will rightly shock the local community and I want to reassure local people that we are conducting a thorough investigation."
The British police reported an increase in acid attacks last year, but it is very rare for a victim to be so young. Some attacks are associated with gang fights or night barb confrontations.
Most attacks happened in London, but they were reported in many parts of the UK. A London teenager was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison this year after he was convicted of spraying acid on the faces of moped drivers so he could steal their mopeds.
The police also report that harmless liquids are sometimes thrown in the face to ambush targets to make them think that they have been hit by a corrosive substance, panicking, and giving up their valuables more easily.
Robin Walker, Worcester representative in parliament, said lawmakers are considering allowing harder sentences for people convicted of any kind intentional attack with acid.
He described what happened to the 3-year-old boy as "horrific".
The attacked child is hospitalized on Saturday. He was not identified.