Zephaniah McLeod sentenced to life in prison following Birmingham stabbing spree

A knifeman who stabbed a university worker to death in a violent series of stabbings where he slashed or stabbed seven other people last year in Birmingham has been sentenced to life in prison.

Zephaniah McLeod fatally stabbed Jacob Billington, a Sheffield Hallam University graduate intern and drummer, during the spree in September 2020.

McLeod, who is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, missed a psychiatric assessment appointment four days before he struck, Birmingham Crown Court heard on Tuesday.

He will be detained at Ashworth Mental Hospital until he is deemed well enough to leave, where he will be transferred to prison to serve the remainder of his term.

The court also heard McLeod had been out of contact with psychiatric health services since his release after a three-year prison term in April 2020.

Jacob Billington, a Sheffield Hallam University intern, was fatally stabbed. Credit: PA

Who is Zephaniah McLeod and how did the Birmingham stabbings happen?

McLeod, of Nately Grove, Selly Oak in Birmingham, carried out the attacks in the space of 90 minutes.

The 28-year-old had previous convictions for robbery, assault, supplying drugs and possession of an imitation firearm.

On the day of the attack, he travelled in a taxi home to pick up another knife, before returning to the city centre, part-way through his string of attacks.

The course McLeod took on the night of the stabbings. Credit: PA Graphics

Mr Billington was fatally stabbed in the neck and shoulder while returning to his hotel after celebrating a friend’s birthday.

The 23-year-old, from Crosby, Merseyside, was attacked alongside close friend Michael Callaghan.

Mr Callaghan, 24, was left gravely injured, suffering a single stab wound to the neck, leaving him partially paralysed down his left side and causing massive blood loss which triggered a stroke.

He is now on a long road to recovery and appeared in court walking unaided to hear the case opening.

'I was unable to try and help save Jacob', Michael Callaghan - who was also attacked by Zephaniah McLeod tells the court

Jacob Billington (left) and Michael Callaghan (right) Credit: Handout

The court heard statements from the victims, read to court, from several of those injured that night, including Mr Callaghan’s.

He told of suffering a "massive" stroke within 24 hours of the attack, followed by pneumonia, as his life remained in the balance in the first 10 days he was in hospital.

Mr Callaghan, who initially had to placed in an induced coma, was not at first well enough to even be told of news his close friend Mr Billington had died.

He said: "The most immediate consequence of the attack is as I was bleeding out, I was unable to try and help save Jacob.

"My friend saved my life… what’s to say I wouldn’t have been able to do the same?"

He added: "Ever since McLeod murdered my friend… and stuck a knife in my neck, I often wish he had succeeded in killing me and still do sometimes."

Mr Callaghan, a medical engineer, told of how he had lost a job he loved, lost the use of his left arm, lost his left-field vision – meaning he can no longer drive – and even lost out on the simple pleasures of going for a "run or jog".

He added complications from the stroke meant he was left without part of his skull for "442 days", until it was repaired with a special plate – requiring further surgery.

However, he added that his rehabilitation was underway – he had learned to walk again – and he was "proud" of his progress so far.