British police investigating the death of a female engineering student attacked by a group of women in the city of Nottingham city have said the assault on the teenager was not racially motivated, despite initial claims to that effect, and that a number of suspects have now been identified.
Eighteen-year-old Mariam Moustafa Abdel Salam was left in a coma after an attack on 20 February and died from her injuries on 14 March.
Chief Superintendent Rob Griffin of Nottinghamshire Police said in a press conference on Monday that the incident was reported as a racially motivated assault, but that investigations have revealed otherwise.
“We had recorded a hate incident. However, the investigation has progressed really well... we have been able to establish what happened on 20 February, and all the evidence indicates that this incident is not in any way hate-related,” he was quoted as saying by British newspaper The Guardian.
He added that investigators have identified a number of suspects.
“We now know that a group of six girls were involved in the incident and we believe that we have identified all six of those girls," he said.
Mariam was "punched several times" while waiting for a bus outside the Victoria Centre in Parliament Street in the centre of Nottingham, according to the police.
She had got on a bus but was followed "by the same group of women who were threatening and abusive towards her before they got off," police said in a statement.
Three weeks after the attack, she died at Nottingham City Hospital.
The case has sparked alarm in Egypt, with Egyptian authorities calling on British officials to provide more information about the police investigation.
Following the February assault, Mariam's family said the teenage girl was attacked by the same group of girls in August 2017 and that police had done nothing at the time, saying the CCTV cameras in the area were not working.
Regarding that incident, Graffin said, "The level of investigation at that time was appropriate, and unfortunately no suspects were identified at the time.”
As to whether the August incident was connected to what happened in February, he said, "We are open-minded, and these investigations continue, and hopefully that picture will continue to become clearer.”
Abdel Salam held both British and Italian citizenship, and prosecutors in Rome have opened their own investigation into her death. They have asked the UK authorities to share details of their police investigation.
Griffin said he would remain in touch with both the Egyptian and Italian embassies throughout the week.