A MAN has been arrested on suspicion of murder over the death of a 32-year-old woman who was one of 13 victims of a series of hit-and-run incidents in which a van was said to have deliberately targeted pedestrians.
Seven children and four adults remained in hospital last night in Cardiff, where the accident and emergency department was temporarily closed to allow medical staff to focus on the injured.
The carnage began at about 3.30pm yesterday when horrified members of the public called 999 to report an incident in the Ely area of the city. It was followed soon after by other incidents across the Ely and Leckwith areas of the Welsh capital.
Early reports indicated there were about five different hit and runs, and at least one witness suggested the driver deliberately ploughed into parents walking home with children after school.
The dead woman – named locally as Karina Menzies – was fatally injured at Cowbridge Road West, outside a fire station which remained sealed off. It is understood she was with two of her children, who were also hurt.
Superintendent Julian Williams of South Wales Police said: “Our thoughts are obviously with her family.
“Incidents like this are extremely rare here, as they are across south Wales, and we want to reassure the public that a significant number of officers are working on the investigation, including a number of specialist resources.
“Whether the actions were deliberate or reckless is a matter for the inquiry and the person will obviously be spoken to.”
The 31-year-old man was arrested later near the Merrie Harrier pub in Penarth, on the outskirts of the city, and a white Iveco van seized.
Mr Williams said he could not give updates on the condition, age or sex of the injured.
Among witnesses voicing their shock was Dr Elizabeth Haywood, wife of Neath MP and former Cabinet Minister Peter Hain.
She told reporters for Wales Online she had been filling up her car with fuel at Asda in Leckwith when she saw an altercation involving two men and the driver of a white van, who returned to his vehicle as she dialled 999.
“Just as I was making the phone call to the emergency services, the white van that had been sitting there for a while suddenly sped off, screeching and with smoke coming from the tyres,” she said. “The next thing I heard was a scream and a thump.
“There was a woman who was in front of his van who was hitting the front of his bonnet because he had hit her. She then went under the wheels of his van.
“So we were all screaming ‘back-up, back-up’. There were a lot of people there.
“So he did back up and then he ran over her again.”
Ely sub-postmaster Shady Taha, 29, had just served two girls and a young woman moments before one of the hit-and-runs in Grand Avenue, immediately outside a row of shops.
He said: “All of a sudden I heard a bang. I looked out and across the road one girl was on the floor and the other girl was screaming.
“I heard a van speed off but I did not see it.”
Hailie Jacobs, from Ely, came across paramedics working on another victim as she walked her son home from school.
“It was all quite scary, we live near there and it’s all places where I walk my children,” she added.
A female shop worker in Grand Avenue, who did not want to be named, said: “We had a customer in our shop who said the van mounted the kerb like the driver wanted to run down young kids with their parents. It was really frightening, people were screaming and shouting out, it was chaotic.”
Another trader said customers were panicked by what had happened.
Harbhajan Dhaliwal, 42, said: “People can’t understand what’s happened, some say the driver was drunk, others think he had some kind of breakdown at the wheel. Customers have said he was targeting people as they walked along.”
A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesman said: “Twelve casualties, including adults and children, have been taken to the University Hospital of Wales with various injuries, some serious.”
The A&E department at the University Hospital of Wales was initially shut to anyone not involved in the incident but later reopened.
Dr Grahame Shortland, medical director at the hospital, said those being treated mostly had fractures and bone injuries.