A deranged knifeman decapitated a British woman on Friday in a shop on the Spanish island of Tenerife and fled with her head, police said, shocking residents and tourists in the popular resort destination.
The man, a 28-year-old Bulgarian identified by police as Deyan Valentinov D, with only an initial instead of his surname, attacked the victim in a Chinese general goods store.
“The attack culminated with the decapitation of the victim,” Canary Islands police said in a statement. “The attacker left the establishment with the head in his hand and then threw it to the pavement.”
Police said the victim was a 60-year-old British woman shopping in the market in the tourist spot of Los Cristianos beach in Arona, on the southern side of Tenerife, the largest of the Canary Islands.
She had no relation to the attacker, they said.
Police said they arrested the man as he was struggling with a security guard and trying to escape.
“A man came running up with something full of blood in his hand and a private security guard behind him, and he threw it on the ground and it almost hit me,” a witness named only as Bernardo told Cadena Ser radio.
“What he had in his hand was a head,” the witness said.
The man, who had a previous record for causing bodily injury, struck at 10:30am in the store, which is within the Valdes shopping centre of Arona, police said.
The attacker shouted out: “God is on Earth,” according to local news site CanariasalDia.com, quoting Arona Mayor Jose Alberto Gonzalez Reveron, who said the assailant lived in a “semi-abandoned” house.
Canary Islands political representative Dominica Fernandez was quoted by the news site as saying that the killer was disturbed and had chosen his victim at random.
In London, a Foreign Office official said it had been informed of the attack.
“We are aware of reports of the death of a British national in Tenerife and are urgently investigating,” she said.
The brutal killing made front page news in Britain, with The Sun tabloid headlining: “Beheaded: Machete Horror On Hol Isle” and The Daily Mirror screaming: “Maniac Cuts Off Brit Woman’s Head.”
Although the victim had yet to be identified, The Sun and The Guardian newspapers reported that the woman was of Chinese descent and was a long-time resident of the island.
News reports in Spain said the suspect had been in a psychiatric hospital for an attack that broke a man’s teeth and had only been released in February, but this could not be confirmed.
Freelance writer Colin Kirby said he was walking past the Chinese shop when he saw a big crowd and an ambulance.
“I assumed someone had fainted or something,” Kirby said in a video interview with British expatriate news site Tenerifemagazine.com.
“I walked on a bit, turned around, there were people shouting. There was a hispanic-looking guy, very scruffy, walking behind me muttering to himself, carrying what I thought was a joke head by the hair with blood.”
Further on, Chinese residents began to run towards the store and security guards chased the attacker across the street where members of the public forced him to the ground, Kirby said.
When security and police arrived they had to hold people off to prevent them beating the suspect, he said.
Kirby said he spoke to a British couple who were in the shop during the attack: “They said this guy just walked in, pulled a big knife and started stabbing at her.”