Family Pay ‘Loving Tribute’ to Man Killed in Birmingham Stabbings

Suspect charged with murder
September 8, 2020 Updated: September 8, 2020

The family of a 23-year-old man killed in a series of stabbings in Birmingham, England, on Sunday paid a “loving tribute” to their relative via West Midlands police on Tuesday.

Jacob Billington, who was killed in the knife attacks that left seven other people injured, two of them critically, was described by his family in a statement as “the light of our life.”

“He was a funny, caring, and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met,” the family said.

“He lit up every room with his boundless energy and witty humor and the loss of such a special person will be felt by all who knew him for years to come.”

Police forensics officers gather evidence inside a cordon on Hurst Street, following a major stabbing incident in the centre of Birmingham in central England
Police forensics officers gather evidence inside a cordon on Hurst Street following a major stabbing incident in the center of Birmingham in central England on Sept. 6, 2020. (Oli Scarff/AFP via Getty Images)

West Midlands police said that Billington, whose 23-year-old friend was also a victim of the stabbings, was killed by a single stab wound to the neck while out with former school friends who were visiting another friend in Birmingham.

The police expressed sympathy for Billington’s family and friends, and for those of the other victims of the attacks.

“Our thoughts and sympathies are with Jacob’s family and friends after receiving such shocking news, particularly for those who were sharing their night out with him,” Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said.

“It’s utterly shocking that a friends’ reunion should end so brutally.”

Man Charged with Murder

Late on Tuesday, West Midlands police announced they had charged Zephaniah McLeod, the 27-year-old man arrested in the early hours of Monday morning, with the murder of Billington.

McLeod is also accused of the attempted murder of seven other people and will appear before Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday morning, police said.

Three of the other victims remain in hospital, two in a critical condition, while the other four have been discharged.

“We are determined to get justice for Jacob and everyone else who has been impacted by these terrible acts,” Graham said.

Criticism

The police were criticized on Monday for their handling of the Birmingham stabbings, including for not releasing CCTV footage of the suspect quickly enough.

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood asked why, considering the large number of CCTV cameras in Birmingham, the man suspected of the stabbings had “two hours to run around the city center,” he told The Times of London.

“Where was the monitoring? Both the public and police were put at further risk,” Mahmood said.

West Midlands police and crime commissioner David Jamieson defended the police operation.

Police had to scrutinize thousands of hours of CCTV footage for images of adequate quality for release to the public, “so that did take time,” Jamieson told Times Radio.

“What we had initially in the first few hours was a very broad description of the person, but of course thousands of people in Birmingham look like that, it’s not very helpful putting out that rather broad description, we need to have something more specific,” he said.

West Midlands police said, detectives “worked around the clock securing CCTV footage” before arresting a 27-year-old man at his home address in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham.

West Midlands Chief Constable Dave Thompson, referring to the criticism police had received, said in a statement on Monday that there is “a time and place to review the actions of an accountable police service.”

He said commentators, however, “clearly do not know” the facts surrounding the investigation.

‘Ill-informed Critique’

“Engaging in an ill-informed critique of this investigation, particularly at such an early stage, is both unhelpful and simply makes the job of the police harder,” he said.

Thompson said West Midlands police “will not be engaging further on discussions on these matters.” They did not respond to a request for comment by the time of this report.

Police also said that two other men and a woman were arrested at the same address on suspicion of assisting an offender. All have been released pending an investigation.

The motive of the attacks is still unclear.