Armed police searched residential streets looking for suspects who crashed a car and escaped on foot discarding their clothes as they fled over back gardens in Thornton Heath this afternoon.

The drama unfolded at 4.10pm after police attempted to stop a red Ford, which officers believed to be linked with weapons.

The car crashed in to a parked van on Norbury Road and two men wearing hoodies escaped on foot along Luna Road before disappearing through back gardens

Items of clothing, believed to have belonged to the  two men, were found on the doorstep of a house and were taken by police for forensics.

The police helicopter circled overhead as dozens of police swarmed the area, with a police dog unit dispatched to help locate the suspects who evaded capture.

Police were on foot and in cars searching neighbouring streets with witnesses seeing armed police in at least two unmarked vehicles involved in the hunt.

One eyewitness said they heard police say a weapon had been discarded and police confirmed a knife was recovered.

Meanwhile several police were witnessed carrying out a full search of the abandoned vehicle, bagging up a number of items found inside.

The side of the vehicle, which has since been removed,  had visible damage to the driver’s door and wing mirror as though it had been rammed.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: “At approximately 16:10hrs on Wednesday, 3 November, officers attempted to stop a vehicle – that was believed to be linked with weapons – in the Thornton Heath area.

“The vehicle failed to stop and a pursuit was authorised with the support of the National Police Air Service.

“The vehicle came to a stop on Norbury Road and the occupants fled on foot.

“One man was arrested nearby and taken to a south London police station. A knife was recovered. Enquiries continue.”