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UK police hunt motive in Nottingham attack as friends mourn student athlete victims

LONDON (AP) – Police worked yesterday to piece together details of a knife and van attack that killed two 19-year-old students and another man in the English city of Nottingham, as friends and family remembered the two younger victims as talented athletes with a passion for life.

Nottingham University students Barnaby Webber and Grace Kumar were stabbed to death in a street near student housing before dawn on Tuesday.

Police said a 31-year-old suspect then killed a man in his 50s, stole his van and ran down a group of pedestrians. Three people were hurt, one critically, in the hit-and-run.

Police subdued the suspect with a stun gun nearby and detained him on suspicion of murder. Police said they believe the attacker acted alone and were working with counterextremism officers to try to establish a motive. The attack has not been labelled extremist by the authorities.

The rampage unfolded over about 90 minutes across a large swath of Nottingham, a university city of about 350,000 some 175 kilometres north of London.

Police forensic officers search a white van on the corner of Maples Street and Bentinck Road, United Kingdom. PHOTO: AP

A Nottingham University graduation ball for scheduled for Tuesday evening was cancelled, with many students gathering instead to light candles for the victims during a vigil at St Peter’s Church.

Webber’s parents and brother said he was “a beautiful, brilliant, bright young man, with everything in life to look forward to”.

“A talented and passionate cricketer, who was over the moon to have made selection to his university cricket team,” the family, from Taunton in southwest England, said in a statement.

“Complete devastation is not enough to describe our pain and loss at the senseless murder of our son.”

Kumar also played cricket and had played field hockey for England youth teams. Woodford Wells Cricket Club near London said she was “a fiercely competitive, talented and dedicated cricketer and hockey player” who was “fun, friendly and brilliant”.