Family of man killed by schizophrenic knifeman in Birmingham 'will never recover', inquest hears

Jacob Billington, 23, was stabbed to death by Zephaniah McLeod, who had schizophrenia, during a string of attacks in Birmingham. Credit: PA Media

The mother of a university worker, 23, who was stabbed to death while on a night out with friends, has said the loss of her “funny, intelligent” son is something his family will “never recover from”.

Jacob Billington, 23, was killed when Zephaniah McLeod, who had schizophrenia, went on a rampage with a knife through Birmingham on September 6 2020.

McLeod, who was 27 at the time of the attacks, was sentenced to life with a minimum term of 21 years at Birmingham Crown Court in 2021.

He admitted the manslaughter of Mr Billington and four counts of attempted murder along with three charges of wounding in relation to seven other people he attacked in the city centre that night over a 90-minute period.

Zephaniah McLeod was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012. Credit: West Midlands Police

McLeod, from Selly Oak, had previous convictions for robbery, assault, supplying drugs and possession of an imitation firearm and had only been released from HMP Parc in South Wales five months before he launched the string of attacks.

He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012, but did not regularly engage with mental health practitioners or take his prescribed medication.

A two-week inquest at Birmingham and Solihull Coroner’s Court into the death of Mr Billington, a talented musician from Merseyside, is expected to look at McLeod’s offending history, time in prison and his mental health treatment during that time.

The inquest will also examine how information was shared when McLeod moved between prisons, how his use of medication was monitored and how his release from prison was managed.

At the start of the inquest, in front of senior coroner Louise Hunt, photographs of Mr Billington and his life-long friend Michael Callaghan, who was also seriously injured during McLeod’s attacks, were shared as Joanne Billington read out a tribute to her “genuinely lovely” son.

She said her son, who was only in Birmingham for one night as he enjoyed a night out with friends, did not deserve to die in such a “monstrous” way.

Jacob Billington (left) with close friend Michael Callaghan (right), who was injured in the attacks. Credit: Family handout

She said: “For us, Jacob’s death is something we will never recover from and has changed the lives of everyone who knew him.

“For his family, friends and colleagues he was a real person with a fantastic personality, loves, hopes and dreams.

“He wanted to be alive, he grabbed life with both hands and he was at a great point in his life.”

Ms Billington said her son “loved a night out” and was remembered by his friends for his love of music, going to festivals and enjoying weekends away.

She said: “He knew how to enjoy life. I think he would want people to remember him as a good friend, positive and helpful.

“He remains much loved and much missed. His death has left a hole that is not able to be filled.

“This incident has scarred so many lives, his friends who were there when he was attacked were heroes.

“He was a genuinely lovely, funny, intelligent young man and I was very proud to be his mum.

“He didn’t deserve to die in the horrific, monstrous way he did. We have had to endure criminal proceedings, a multi-agency review and now an inquest.

“I want everyone involved to be committed to a full and frank investigation.

“He deserved to be safe walking down the street. All agencies involved need to remember him and the manner of his death throughout this process.”

The inquest continues.

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