FOUR failed chances to stop knifeman who stabbed eight and killed one
Mother whose son was killed by a mentally-ill knifeman in stabbing spree slates authorities over failings after independent report reveals FOUR failed chances to stop him
- Zephaniah McLeod stabbed eight people in a rampage on September 6, 2020
- The then-27-year-old was later jailed for life with a minimum term of 21 years
The mother of a man who was killed by a mentally-ill knifeman in a stabbing spree has blasted the authorities after an inquiry found there were multiple missed chances to stop him.
Zephaniah McLeod stabbed 23-year-old Jacob Billington to death during a rampage in Birmingham on September 6, 2020, during which he attacked eight people.
The then-27-year-old, who had been freed from HMP Parc in south Wales just five months earlier, was found to have had ‘no planned contact with statutory services’ at the time of his release despite being a paranoid schizophrenic, an independent report has found.
He would later be jailed for life with a minimum term of 21 years at Birmingham Crown Court in 2021, after admitting Mr Billington’s manslaughter four counts of attempted murder and three charges of wounding.
Jacob’s mother, Jo Billington, has today blasted the authorities for a catalogue of ‘astonishing failings and incompetence’ after the NHS-commissioned report into multiple government agencies was released.
Jacob Billington, pictured here in a family handout photo, was stabbed to death by Zephaniah McLeod in Birmingham on September 6, 2020
Jacob’s mother, Jo Billington (pictured here outside Birmingham Crown court following McLeod’s sentencing in 2021) has slammed the authorities for multiple missed opportunities
The inquiry report, published on Tuesday, found there were four missed opportunities to better understand McLeod’s mental health and ‘allow for a planned release’ from prison.
READ MORE HERE: Paranoid schizophrenic jailed for life for killing university student, 23, and injuring seven others was filmed on CCTV during 90-minute stabbing spree
The families of Sheffield Hallam University worker Mr Billington, originally from Crosby, Merseyside, and his life-long friend, Michael Callaghan, who received life-changing injuries, both provided impact statements to the review.
Mr Billington’s mother, Jo Billington, said in her statement that she had been ‘left utterly heartbroken’ by his killing and ‘the subsequent discoveries about how much the different agencies knew about this man’.
Claiming the report had made ‘very weak’ recommendations that failed to get to the heart of what went wrong, she added: ‘The (crown court) judge was very critical in his sentencing report about the level of care and monitoring of this individual.
‘Finally, after a two-and-a-half year wait, we have this report. This is an unacceptably long time to wait for answers.
‘Now we finally have it, it catalogues a massive amount of astonishing failings and incompetence. It speaks to a terrifying lack of concern, or even interest in how dangerous this man was.
‘Few people checked, few kept adequate records or assessed his risk effectively, or even at all. We are told about ‘missed opportunities’.
‘These are not missed opportunities, these are people not doing their job, these are procedures not being followed and a catastrophic lack of professional standards, leading to a young man losing his life.
McLeod, who is a paranoid schizophrenic, was jailed for life with a minimum term of 21 years for manslaughter, four counts of attempted murder and three charges of wounding
‘There appear to be no consequences at all for the agencies involved, and I am not satisfied in any way the failings identified in this report will not continue to happen.
‘All the agencies knew about the offender, they knew he was dangerous and violent, that he didn’t comply with medication, and he had made multiple threats to hurt people.
‘In the end, he carried out those threats. Eight innocent people have had their lives changed forever.
‘I will never see what Jacob would have become. He died due to a catalogue of errors and poor practice, and this I simply can’t forgive.’
In his statement to the review, Keith Billington, Jacob’s father, added that his son ‘was much loved, much wanted, and now – much missed’ but had come ‘face to face with evil’ on the night he was killed.
‘He worked hard and he played hard,’ Mr Billington said.
‘He was on the cusp of the next phase of his life when he would take everything he had learnt; the skills, the experience, the friendships and networks to build a great life for himself and his future family.
‘But he had the misfortune to meet someone without any responsibility; who took him away from us.’
In another statement to the inquiry team, Mr Callaghan’s mother, Anne Callaghan, thanked NHS staff for their wonderful care of her son, whose capacity to work had been ‘catastrophically hit by his injuries.’
But she stated: ‘This investigation has identified a woeful lack of communication, with uninformed and reckless decision-making regarding MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements) and the management of (McLeod) during his time in and release from prison.
Jacob (pictured here with his younger sister as he graduated from university) died ‘due to a catalogue of errors and poor practice’, his mother claims
‘Parts of this horrific narrative suggest statutory regulations may not have been met.
‘My son can no longer play his guitar, banjo or piano two-handed, have a game of football or tennis with his friends, go running, hike, or drive. He has lost his livelihood.
READ MORE HERE: Paranoid schizophrenic told mental health nurse three days earlier that he was hearing ‘distressing voices’, court hears
‘The thought that individuals took highly risky decisions that resulted in a clearly dangerous man being released unsupervised, with no known whereabouts, is almost impossible to bear.
‘I believe this incident was clearly predictable and preventable. It has devastated the lives of eight people and all those who care for them; Jacob and Michael are seemingly tolerable statistics to those who resource the system.’
McLeod, referred to throughout the report by the initial H, was released from HMP Parc on April 22, 2020, ‘subject to no restrictions or supervision’ after serving a three-year sentence for drug and firearm offences.
Birmingham-born McLeod, of Nately Grove, Selly Oak, had a history of offending starting in his mid-teens and was arrested at least 21 times between 2007 and 2017.
In its conclusions, the report’s authors noted: ‘This review has concluded that H was not appropriately treated and medicated from 2011 to 2020.
‘H consistently did not engage with any of the statutory services he came into contact with, from the police, prison, and probation service to local community mental health services.
‘This pattern of non-engagement with services resulted in him being discharged from MAPPA in October 2019, because the panel could not see a role for itself.
‘It also resulted in H remaining in prison until his sentence ended. The consequence was that he was released from HMP Parc in April 2020, subject to no statutory supervision from any of the criminal justice services – police or probation.’
It was also noted that McLeod was released from jail to no fixed abode, so services did not know where he had gone.
‘He had told services he was going to North Wales but, in reality, he returned to the Birmingham area on the day of his release,’ the report said.
Michael Callaghan, who was left gravely injured after being stabbed in the neck by Zephaniah McLeod speaking outside Birmingham Crown Court after his sentencing in 2021
The investigation made five recommendations to improve services, including a call for the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust to develop an up-to-date operational policy covering prison discharge services.
It also recommended that the West Midlands MAPPA Strategic Management Board reconsider its decision not to complete a serious case review, which the report’s authors said would be an opportunity to look in more detail at the issues it had raised.
READ MORE HERE: Paranoid schizophrenic pleads guilty to killing university worker, 23, and attacks on seven other people during knife rampage in Birmingham city centre
Among other recommendations was a call to ensure the mental health in-reach team at HMP Parc has sufficient resources to meet demand.
Julian Hendy, the director of the Hundred Families charity, which has been supporting relatives of Jacob Billington and Michael Callaghan said: ‘This is a truly shocking report.
‘It demonstrates in very clear detail that agencies which are supposed to protect the public failed to effectively monitor a highly dangerous, violent, and seriously unwell man.
‘Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened in Birmingham. In 2013 16-year-old Christina Edkins was fatally stabbed by a recently released prisoner with serious mental health problems.
‘After similar investigations then we were promised that ‘lessons will be learned’ so that no other family would have to endure a similar loss in future. But that clearly hasn’t happened.’
A spokesperson for Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust said: ‘We would like to publicly express our sincere sympathies to the families and friends of Jacob and Michael.
‘Our chief executive and interim chief nurse met with Jo Billington and Anne Callaghan and were deeply saddened to see the terrible impact that this tragedy has had on them and their families’ lives.
‘As an organisation, we fully accept the recommendation in the report for us to review the service description of our discharge service.
‘We have commissioned a comprehensive review and will update the service description accordingly, to help ensure a similar incident does not occur.’
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