A KNIFEMAN who stabbed a man to death and wounded seven others in a violent stabbing spree in Birmingham city centre has been sentenced to life with a minimum term of 21 years.

The sentence will initially be served at a high-security hospital.

Zephaniah McLeod, who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2012, previously admitted the manslaughter of Jacob Billington, after stabbing the 23-year-old to death in the early hours of September 6, 2020.

McLeod, of Nately Grove, Selly Oak, Birmingham had also admitted four counts of attempted murder, including one attack which left a victim partially paralysed, and three separate offences of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

The events in the early hours of Sunday 6 September 2020 began half an hour after midnight when a 33-year-old man was stabbed in Constitution Hill leaving him with a neck wound.

Twenty minutes later a 25-year-old woman was stabbed to her shoulder in Livery Street and, minutes after that in Barwick Street, a 29-year-old man was left in a critical condition with a chest wound.

At 1.50am McLeod launched his next attack in Irving Street on a group of school friends from Liverpool.

Bromsgrove Advertiser: Jacob Billington died in the attacks.Jacob Billington died in the attacks.

Jacob Billington, aged 23, a graduate intern at Sheffield Hallam University, was fatally stabbed and his close friend, Michael Callaghan, also 23, was critically injured.

McLeod went on to stab two men, aged 29 and 24, and also inflicted critical injuries on a 23-year-old woman shortly after, all in Hurst Street.

From the CCTV evidence it emerged that after leaving Barwick Street, McLeod had dumped his knife in a drain.

He tried to obtain another knife from a pizza takeaway, but when they refused him, he caught a taxi to his home address in Nately Grove, Selly Oak and re-armed himself, before heading into the city centre again to continue his assault an hour later.

Superintendent Jim Munro was the senior investigating officer for the case, he said: "The number of CCTV cameras across the city is significant and took an immense amount of co-ordination, however not all of the incidents were covered by cameras. We were able to match the clothing McLeod wore to witness and victim descriptions, to identify him and he was arrested from his home address just over 24 hours later.

Bromsgrove Advertiser: Michael Callaghan was seriously injured when he was stabbed by McLeod.Michael Callaghan was seriously injured when he was stabbed by McLeod.

“McLeod has never given an explanation for his actions that night which leaves no closure for his victims or their families and friends, although I am pleased that the admission of his crimes has spared those involved the ordeal of a trial.”

Ordering the 28-year-old’s detention, initially at Ashworth Hospital, at Birmingham Crown Court on Wednesday, November 17 Mr Justice Pepperall said: “Your victims were variously enjoying a night out or returning home from work.

“They gave you no offence and they were chosen at random.

“I have no doubt whatsoever you are a very dangerous man and pose a significant risk to members of the public of serious harm.”

The sentence imposed means McLeod would move to a prison to serve the remainder of his term, if his mental health improved sufficiently – but could be returned to a secure hospital if it worsened again.

The judge said: “Such a sentence ensures you first obtain treatment but means should you ever be assessed as fit to leave hospital you will be transferred to a prison and not simply released.

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 he killed.

In sentencing on Thursday, November 18, Mr Justice Pepperall said: “I find you were released from prison in April 2020 at the height of the first wave of the Covid pandemic without any appropriate follow up by mental health services.

“Indeed, given your past medical history, it is a matter of considerable concern you were simply lost in the system for some weeks.”