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Court sentences Birmingham ‘stabbing spree’ killer to 21 years imprisonment


A man who killed a university worker and stabbed seven other people during a spate of knife attacks in Birmingham, Zephaniah McLeod, has been sentenced to at least 21 years.

The 28 years old will serve the term in a high-security hospital at first and subsequently move to jail if his mental health improves.

Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, four counts of attempted murder and three charges of wounding.

A court heard that he told onlookers ‘watch this’ as he plunged a blade into the chests, necks and faces of people enjoying a night out or heading home in the city on September 6 last year.

He was sentenced at Birmingham Crown Court with a minimum term of 21 years.

The court heard that he had been freed from prison unsupervised despite a history of mental problems and violent offending. reports

He had recently expressed to doctors ‘dark and sinister thoughts about killing’ and heard voices in his head saying: ‘Kill ’em, stab ’em’ and was diagnosed with schizophrenia.

During his 90-minute stabbing spree, he killed Sheffield Hallam University graduate trainee Jacob Billington, 23, stabbing him in the neck as he walked back to his hotel with friends.

Musician Jacob, from Crosby in Merseyside, was visiting the city when he was attacked alongside his friend Michael Callaghan, 23, who was also seriously injured.

McLeod then brutally attacked his other victims at random while he ‘smirked’ and appeared calm.

On several occasions, including when he attacked Jacob and Michael, he asked victims for a cigarette or a lighter to get closer to them before striking.

Medical engineer Michael was left in a coma and almost died as a result of a stab wound on the right side of neck and spent six months in hospital.

In a victim impact statement, Michael said: ‘Sometimes I wished he’d killed me.’

Police released harrowing CCTV footage of each attack showing McLeod attacking strangers as stalked the city.

He can be seen viciously lunging at Migle Dolobauskaite with a blade while she was sat looking at her phone near Snow Hill station.

McLeod then dumped the knife down a drain before getting a taxi back to his home in Selly Oak and rearming himself with another knife to continue his spree.

Police launched a manhunt and tracked McLeod to his home address at 4am the following day.

Body-cam footage captured firearms officers detaining him at gunpoint after smashing down his front door.

With red dots trained on his chest, officers scream: ‘Come down to us Zephaniah, keep your hands where we can see them. Stand still, turn around.’

Mr Justice Pepperall said: ‘In the course of your murderous rampage you killed one man, left another man and woman fighting for their lives and wounded five others.’

He added: ‘I have no doubt whatsoever you are a very dangerous man and pose a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm.’

McLeod, of Selly Oak, Birmingham, carried out the apparently motiveless attacks in the space of 90 minutes.

He got a cab home to pick up another knife, before returning to the city centre, part-way through his spree.

McLeod had been suffering from paranoid schizophrenia at the time of the attack and was ‘well-known’ to mental health services since his diagnosis in 2012.

The court heard he was released from prison unsupervised in April 2020, was only seen face-to-face by a mental health team on September 3, then ‘refused’ to attend a psychiatric assessment – just three days before the attacks.

Mr Billington’s mother, Joanne Billington, has said there are still many ‘unanswered questions’ about various state agencies’ prior treatment and monitoring of McLeod, and believes ‘mistakes were made’, before he launched his attacks.

She said: ‘I want to know why this happened, when Jacob was just walking down the street.

‘My heart is completely broken.

‘I am haunted about how he died, how terrified he must have been.

‘Many agencies in this case knew what a danger this man posed.

‘My son bled to death at the hands of someone well-known to many agencies.’

Dad Keith added: ‘McLeod isn’t the victim, my son is.

‘He is clearly one of the most dangerous men to walk this city and I hope this court gives him a very long sentence.

‘I had to tell my dad, Jacob’s grandfather, that Jacob had died. My dad died six weeks later.’

Keith then turned to McLeod and angrily said: ‘That knife you stuck into Jacob, you stuck into my dad too.’

McLeod admitted attempted murder against Migle Dolobauskaite, Thomas Glassey, Michael Callaghan and Shane Rowley.

He admitted wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm to Dimitar Bachvarov, Ryan Bowers and Rhys Cummings.