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A teenage girl was stabbed in the head and hands as she tried to save her sister from a fatal knife attack, police said.
The 17-year-old is in a serious condition in hospital and her 28-year-old sister died after they were attacked at a flat in Brixton, south London yesterday.
About half an hour earlier, their attacker had struck at another flat in the area and left a 46-year-old woman fighting for her life with multiple stab wounds.
Sources said that the 40-year-old suspect, who is currently being questioned, was released from prison last month.
He served a jail term of less than 12 months for a non-violent crime, meaning that he was not under any form of supervision.
The first victim was stabbed multiple times at a flat in Redlands Way, and police were alerted by terrified neighbours at about 6.40pm.
About half an hour later they were called to Tilson Gardens, where the other two women had been attacked, and the 28-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene. Her younger sister is in a serious condition in hospital.
An eyewitness who lives in Redlands Way said:
"I came out when I heard her scream that someone was killing her and shouting for help. The woman had got out on to the balcony and she was just screaming. There was this tall black guy who came out of nowhere - it was like a film.
"He just grabbed her and stabbed her in her back - a couple of us saw it. The children were playing out in the park right in front which made it more traumatic.
"People started calling the police and I was trying to get my daughter inside so I could go down to see whether I could do anything.
"The guy escaped but we saw her coming down with bandages and the bandages were bleeding."
Young children were at the scene of both attacks, and police are trying to ascertain whether they saw anything.
It is understood that an eight-year-old boy was in the bathroom of the first floor property in Tilson Gardens when the attack took place.
The suspected killer was arrested shortly before 1am as he travelled on a bus in Leigham Court Road, just over a mile from where the women were stabbed.
Detectives are not seeking anyone else in connection with the investigation, and all three victims were known to him.
Detective inspector Will Reynolds said:
"Our investigation is at a very early stage. However, we are confident that there are no outstanding suspects.
"We believe that all three victims were known to the man who is currently in our custody. There is no suggestion that the victims were selected at random."
Speaking at Brixton police station this afternoon, Mr Reynolds confirmed that the 17-year-old girl and the 28-year-old woman are sisters.
"The violence used was extreme and we're trying to establish what was the trigger to these circumstances, what was the precursor.
"I can confirm that at both venues young children were taken from the scene, it's too early at the moment to say exactly whether they witnessed what happened, but they have been taken in to good care and they will be well looked after.
"We'd like to try and assess whether they can add anything to the investigation, when we do so we will approach them when the time is absolutely right.
"I can confirm that the suspect is known to us, but I'm not prepared to clarify to what extent."
The woman who died was was named locally as Keisha.
A neighbour who lives in the housing block at Tilson Gardens heard a boy raise the alarm by screaming from a balcony.
Hawa Musse, 20, said he is the son of the woman who died.
"The boy came out on the balcony," she said.
"He was crying and screaming. I went down to help."
Ms Musse said she and another neighbour ran outside to assist.
"She called the police and took the boy away,' Ms Musse said. "He was shaking. He only had one piece of cloth around him."
Ms Musse then saw the injured girl outside the flat. "She was sitting on the floor. There was a lot of blood coming from her head. She was saying 'My sister is inside'. I think she was talking to the police," she said.