Two men have been arrested after three men were stabbed to death in a clash police believe was between groups of Sikh men.

Police responded to reports of a disturbance in Elmstead Road, Seven Kings, in Ilford, east London, on Sunday at 7.38pm.

All three men were pronounced dead at the scene and the Metropolitan Police said the victims are believed to be aged in their 20s or 30s.

The two men, aged 29 and 39, have been arrested on suspicion of murder.

Speaking at the scene on Monday, Chief Superintendent Stephen Clayman said the suspects and the victims were all known to each other.

“We believe the groups involved are members of the Sikh community,” he said.

He added in a later statement: “A fight has taken place which has escalated, resulting in three people being fatally attacked.”

Officers are still contacting members of the deceased men’s families, he said.

“It was a horrific scene for anyone to come across and my heart goes out to the families and those affected by it because it is unprecedented to have something like this,” he said.

While they are still investigating a motive, police have ruled out terrorism, he said.

A police cordon was in place outside Seven Kings railway station on Monday morning.

The owner of Seven Kings Cars opposite the station said a man with blood on his hands had approached him on Sunday evening asking for help after three people had been badly injured.

Police activity at the scene
Police activity at the scene (Jonathan Brady/PA)

Nadeem Rana told the PA news agency: “I was shocked. He had blood on his hands and he said there were people in very poor condition.”

The man and a passenger who had been waiting for a taxi made off towards the scene to help, Mr Rana said.

He said he was shocked to hear the men had died.

“It’s shocking, a feeling of insecurity to be honest,” he said.

Local resident Lauren Marshall said she and other neighbours had gone out into Elmstead Road when they saw flashing police lights on Sunday night.

London homicides in 2020
(PA Graphics)

“By the time I came out, the road was blocked and there were police everywhere. It was manic. Everyone was coming out of their houses,” the 26-year-old paralegal told PA.

“I’ve lived here my whole life and nothing like this has ever happened. It was a shock.”

A police forensics tent was visible in Salisbury Road near what Ms Marshall said was the stairway to the railway station

Formal identification of the victims has yet to take place, and post-mortem examinations have also yet to be arranged.

So far in 2020 there have been six homicides in the capital. Last year there were 149, a rise from 133 in 2018, despite a drop nationally.