Birmingham stabbings: man admits manslaughter and attempted murder

A man has pleaded guilty to the manslaughter of a university worker in a series of knife attacks in Birmingham last year which left seven other people injured.

Zephaniah McLeod, 28, of Selly Oak, Birmingham, also admitted four counts of attempted murder and three charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

McLeod, who appeared in Birmingham crown court via a video link from Ashworth hospital, carried out the stabbings in the early hours of Sunday 6 September last year, as the city was packed with revellers.

McLeod was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, the court heard, and has been in custody since being charged with the attacks, which happened in the space of 90 minutes.

Jacob Billington, a 23-year-old Sheffield Hallam University graduate intern and drummer, was fatally stabbed in the neck.

Seven others were injured in four attacks across the city centre, including Billington’s old school friend and bandmate Michael Callaghan. The pair were part of a group visiting a friend studying in Birmingham when the attacks took place.

Billington’s family, who were present at the hearing, described him as “the light of our life” in a statement issued at the time. “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,” they said.

An inquest on 14 September heard McLeod returned to his home in Selly Oak during the attacks early on 6 September and was later arrested at 4am.

West Midlands police was criticised for its reaction times, including concerns footage of the suspect was not released quickly enough, but chief constable Dave Thompson later defended his officers’ “reasonable and well-considered” response to the attacks.

Multiple firearms officers, stun gun units, traffic resources and the police helicopter were deployed during the incident.

McLeod will be sentenced on 27 and 28 September.

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