Monday, 21 Sep 2020

Man charged with murder over 'random' knife attacks in Birmingham

A man has been charged with one count of murder and seven counts of attempted murder after a series of stabbings in Birmingham city centre.

Zephaniah McLeod, 27, of Nately Grove, Selly Oak, will appear at the city’s magistrates’ court on Wednesday, West Midlands Police said.

He is accused of killing Jacob Billington, 23, who was stabbed to death during the attacks, which spanned more than 90 minutes in the early hours of Sunday.

Two other victims remain in a critical condition, although one, a woman, 22, is now stable. Another man, 30, remains in a serious condition in hospital, while four others were discharged.

Mr Billington, a library intern at Sheffield Hallam University, had been visiting a friend in Birmingham when he was stabbed in the neck on Irving Street around 1.52am.

His devastated family paid tribute to him on Monday, describing him as the ‘light of our life’. They went on: ‘He was a funny, caring and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met.

‘He lit up every room with his boundless energy and witty humour and the loss of such a special person will be felt by all who knew him for years to come.’

One of Mr Billington’s friends, Michael Callaghan, 23, was seriously injured in the attack. The pair had been in a band together, in which Mr Billington was the drummer.

Their former school, Sacred Heart Catholic College, in Crosby, said in a statement: ‘We are praying for Michael’s recovery and will never forget Jacob, his life touched so many in our school.’

Three people were arrested early on Monday morning at an address in Selly Oak on suspicion of assisting an offender, but have since all been released pending investigation, police said.

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Munro, leading the investigation, said: ‘Since these tragic events unfolded in the early hours of Sunday morning we’ve had a team of officers working non-stop on the investigation.

‘Our driving focus is to secure justice for the victims, their family and friends. Our sympathies remain with everyone who’s been impacted by these terrible crimes. Our investigation continues and I would urge any witnesses who’ve not yet spoken to us, or anyone with information they feel could help, to get in touch.’

Suzanne Llewellyn, deputy chief crown prosecutor of Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) West Midlands, said: ‘Following an incident in Birmingham city centre in the early hours of September 6 2020, the CPS has authorised West Midlands Police to charge Zephaniah McLeod with one count of murder and seven counts of attempted murder.

‘This decision was made following careful consideration of the evidence presented to us by West Midlands Police as a result of their ongoing investigation. Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of the victims affected in this incident.’

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