A knife-man who killed one man and wounded seven other people in a two-hour stabbing rampage across Birmingham city centre is being hunted by police.
The first stabbing was in Constitution Hill at 00:30 BST and the killer moved south, apparently attacking at random, officers said.
The stabbings did not appear terrorism related, gang related or connected to disorder, West Midlands Police said.
The force urged anyone with CCTV or mobile footage to contact officers.
Murder inquiry detectives said they were hunting a single suspect.
One man died, another man and a woman suffered critical injuries and five other people were left with non-life-threatening injuries.
Ch Supt Steve Graham said the attacker went on to stab people in Livery Street, Irving Street and finally in Hurst Street, where the city’s Gay Village meets the Chinese Quarter, at about 02:20 BST.
Police said there was no evidence the stabbings were a hate crime.
Mr Graham said officers – some armed – remained across the city centre to reassure people.
He added they had received a number of descriptions of the suspect but would not releasing any details at this time.
Mr Graham said: “The events during the early hours of this morning are tragic, shocking and understandably frightening.
“It does appear to be a random attack because we haven’t found any links between the victims, either in their nature or in where they were socialising.
“Please be assured that we are doing absolutely everything we can to find whoever was responsible and try to understand what exactly happened.”
Officers earlier found a knife in a drain but Mr Graham said it was “way too early” to say if it was connected to the case.
“What I think it does suggest is the comprehensive nature of our inquiry – that already we’ve got people going down drains – we’ve got that level of detailed searches taking place,” he said.
Nathan Hudson, from West Midlands Ambulance Service, said 14 ambulances were sent and he was among 11 paramedic officers who were also sent to the scene.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson thanked emergency services “who are working hard at the scene”.
Mr Johnson tweeted: “All my thoughts are with those affected by the terrible incident in Birmingham last night.”
David Nash, who was running the Village Inn in Hurst Street, said after a “normal night” he heard someone shout “stop him – he’s just stabbed somebody” between 02:00 and 02:15.
“The bars were starting to wind down as everybody finishes early since the reopening since Covid and the next thing we know the area is engulfed with armed response vehicles, normal police vehicles, police on foot, ambulances,” he said.
“They just came from absolutely nowhere and the area was full of them and then the police helicopter was up in the area obviously as they were searching for this person that they presume is the attacker.”
He said he then saw paramedics treating two people who seemed to have been stabbed.
Mr Nash said police began clearing the area and he ensure staff at the bar and two others he helps run in the area got home safely in taxis.
Witness Cara Curran, a club promoter working in the Arcadian Centre, said it had been busier during the evening than it had been at any time since the start of lockdown.
Ms Curran said she had finished her shift at about 00:30 BST and was drinking with colleagues when she heard a “loud bang and quite a lot of commotion”.
The streets in the area have already been closed to traffic due to coronavirus restrictions.
Outside the cordoned-off area, much of the city centre, such as Birmingham’s Bullring shopping centre and the Sealife Centre in Brindleyplace, is open as usual.
The West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) David Jamieson said police would be working with the city council to see if there were “any further measures that need to be taken in the city centre”, following the stabbings.
A rise in violence was “almost inevitable” due to the pandemic, when people were suffering “pent -up feelings” and some were unsure of their futures, the Labour PCC said.
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