The devastated family of 23-year-old Jacob Billington who was murdered on the streets of Birmingham while enjoying a night with his friends have paid tribute to ‘the light of our life’
The man murdered by a rampaging knifeman in Birmingham had been at the scene of the attack after heading to the wrong Ibis hotel after a night out, it has been claimed.
Jacob Billington, 23, was with a group of old school friends from Liverpool when he was stabbed in Irving Street, Birmingham in the early hours on Sunday.
Another member of the group, also 23, was seriously injured in the attack and is fighting for life in a critical condition in hospital.
A 27-year-old man, named locally as Ray, remains in custody on suspicion of murder and seven counts of attempted murder.
A resident who captured the aftermath of Mr Billington’s stabbing on CCTV told The Times: ‘I could hear shouting and I thought it was an argument but then someone said ”He needs help, he’s been stabbed”.
‘The police officer told me the lads had been heading to the Ibis hotel opposite.
‘Sadly, apparently they had been staying at a different Ibis hotel and they had gone to the wrong one.’
Mr Billington’s devastated family said in a statement: ‘Jacob was the light of our life and we have been devastated by his loss.
‘He was a funny, caring and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met.
‘He lit up every room with his boundless energy and witty humour and the loss of such a special person will be felt by all who knew him for years to come.
‘We ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time.’
Another man, 30, who was stabbed in Livery Street and a 22-year-old woman, attacked in Hurst Street, remain critically injured in hospital.
Four others, three men and a woman were also injured.
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said: ‘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.
‘It’s utterly shocking that a friends’ reunion should end so brutally.
‘Equally the families of the other victims have been left devastated by the events of Sunday morning and we are working hard to discover what led to the apparently random attacks.
‘We have no suggestion that the motive was either racial, homophobic or gang-related.
Armed police today dragged the 27-year-old suspect out of his home in a dramatic 4am raid in the Selly Oak area of the city, around three miles from the scene of the frenzied attack that broke out the early hours of Sunday.
The ‘terrified’ man was still wearing his pyjamas when firearms officers swooped on his house and handcuffed him.
Three other people, two men and a woman, were arrested from the same address on suspicion of assisting an offender.
Now, his neighbours in the quiet cul-de-sac claim the suspect – who they say lives in a rented semi-detached house with friends – ‘was mentally disturbed and possibly a schizophrenic’. Another called him an ‘oddball’ who spent his days riding the bus.
The residents at the property were believed to be housed there by Birmingham City Council and had support workers due to mental health issues or substance abuse, a source said.
Mr Billington’s (left) devastated family said in a statement: ‘Jacob was the light of our life and we have been devastated by his loss. He was a funny, caring and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met.
Police hunting Birmingham knifeman issue CCTV images of a suspect after the late-night rampage left one dead and seven hurt with witnesses describing their horror at the bloodbath on the streets of the city in the early hours of this morning
Residents reported seeing several police cars surround the property before officers dragged the suspect out.
One local said: ‘I don’t know the group living in the house but my understanding is that the man arrested was mentally disturbed and possibly a schizophrenic.
‘Apparently his family are well to do and had been helping him but he had become estranged from them and was living with friends.
‘Another neighbour said they saw him and another man being dragged out of the house in handcuffs by dozens of armed police who were shouting and screaming.
‘He was a bit of an oddball. Apparently he spends his days riding the bus around Birmingham.
‘It’s a terrible thing to happen so close to home.’
Another local told MailOnline: ‘The tenants were put in there by Birmingham City Council. [There is] a high turnover of people living in that property. They all have support workers to help them return to normal life.
‘I don’t know the tenants very well… they’re constantly changing. It’s a three bedroom property and three men were living there.
‘The man who was shown on the CCTV was called Ray. I recognised him straight away but don’t know what his last name is.’
The random attacks which took place across 90 minutes in four areas of Birmingham city centre sparked a huge manhunt for the knifeman – as police launch an investigation into how the stabbing spree was allowed to continue for almost two hours.
A police forensics officer holding a sealed container with a black handled knife inside on Edmund Street in Birmingham
A 23-year-old man was killed, while a woman, 32, and another man, 19, are in a critical condition and five others suffered less serious injuries. Horrified witnesses revealed how they saw the ‘chilled’ suspect stab random victims in the head and neck and, when confronted, say ‘whatever’.
Residents said they were awoken by loud bangs and shouts of ‘get down’ as officers carried out the raid this morning before dragging the suspect away in handcuffs.
John Astley said he was woken by a loud bang during the night, and saw a police van parked outside the neighbouring property.
He told reporters: ‘I think there were three people living there. They have only been there a few months, since July or something like that.
‘I had a look out of the front bedroom window and I just noticed there was a police van. I could hear a lot of noise coming from next door and it sounded like they were doing a search.’
One resident said the house the suspect was in was occupied by ‘a number of people’ while another added: ‘We heard a massive bang – we thought someone had crashed a car but it must’ve been them (police) bashing the door down.
‘We looked out the window and there were lots of armed police shouting ‘armed police, get down.’ There were two police vans, then three more police cars came along. I saw them bringing about four people out.
‘That house has been privately rented and they’ve been around for the last six weeks. The locals have had problems with them playing loud music.’
Another added: ‘He was spread out on thew floor with his arms behind his back. It looked like he was wearing pyjama bottoms.’
One local also told how the suspect was ‘terrified’ as he was led out in handcuffs during the ‘dramatic’ raid. They added: ‘I can’t believe what’s happened. It’s terrifying to think a suspect has been living there. It’s horrific. The people that lived there were a nightmare. It was constant loud music through the day.’
Two men who crossed the police cordon at the address at which the suspect was arrested called him a ‘normal lad’.
The men, who wouldn’t reveal their connection to the suspect, spoke with police officers at the doorstep for several minutes this morning.
A forensics investigator and police officers outside a property on Nately Grove, Selly Oak, Birmingham, around three miles from the site of the stabbing
The suspect, dressed in pyjamas, was said to be ‘terrified’ as he was arrested by armed police at 4am this morning in the Selly Oak area of the city
West Midlands Police has come under criticism for not stopping the rampage while it was underway, with Khalid Mahmood, Labour MP for Perry Barr, questioning how the suspect was able to run through Birmingham city centre stabbing people for nearly two hours. The MP even suggested that the dead man could have been saved had police responded quicker.
He said: ‘We’ve got to look at the fact he had two hours to run around the city centre, which has a huge amount of CCTV cameras in place.
‘Where was the monitoring? Both the public and police were put at further risk. There is a person dead. How was this man able to go on a two-hour spate?
‘Potentially, had the alarm been set up early enough, the individual who is now deceased could have been saved and it’s important we look at that.’
He also added that he was worried officers had given the suspect too much time to flee by failing to issue a description for several hours: ‘He could have left the city . . . It’s not good enough to withhold the information. We need to know why this took so long.’
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson told Sky News there would be a a full inquiry into the police response after the suspect managed to ‘slip away into the crowds without being noticed’.
Asked whether it seemed extraordinary that an attacker could go on a rampage for two hours in Britain’s second city, he told Times Radio: ‘It does, and that is a question I will be asking once a person is in custody, then we need to reflect on the whole incident.
West Midlands Police have arrested a man at a house on Nately Grove in Selly Oak, Birmingham in a dramatic dawn raid
Police have this morning arrested a 27-year-old man on suspicion of murdering one man and stabbing seven others in a knife rampage in Birmingham
‘What we want to know, the police will look at this closely, we want to know that, if something similar happened again, how we avoid it if we can.
‘Yes there will be questions asked, there will be, if you like, debriefings on the whole thing and if necessary we will have to look at any different approach we take to policing.
‘Everything will be done, there will be a thorough investigation, and we will look for any lessons that need to be learned, we will learn those lessons.
‘But as I’ve seen up to now the police have acted very swiftly and very professionally.’
Jay Singh Sohal, the Conservative candidate for PCC, said: ‘I find it remarkable the police didn’t immediately release the most important thing and give a description for what they are looking for. That delay means this guy could be anywhere.’
Mr Jamieson defended the delay in issuing CCTV images of the suspect.
He told Times Radio: ‘We had to trawl through thousands of hours of CCTV footage and retrieve it from offices and buildings, some of which of course were closed.
‘It did take a time. They had to find significant quality of pictures to be able to put out so people could give some sort of recognition. So that did take time.
‘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.’
Police blamed the ‘unusual route’ taken by the suspect for their failure to stop him, although they gave no further information.
Asked if it was right to say the police had acted too slowly, West Midlands mayor Andy Street told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘No, I don’t think it is.
‘It’s very easy to comment on a police investigation while it’s live. I don’t intend to fall into that trap.’
The motive for the shocking events has yet to be revealed, though police say they have ruled out terrorism.
Police sources told MailOnline one line of inquiry was the attack, part of which took place in the city’s gay village, could have been intended to target members of the LGBT community.
However a spokesman for West Midlands Police said at this stage the force believes the attacks were ‘random’ and they have no indication of a motive. It is not believed the man killed was gay.
Residents described how armed police swooped to detain the suspect in a dramatic 4am raid this morning at an address in the Selly Oak area of Birmingham, three miles from the scene of the rampage
The first CCTV images of a man wanted in connection with a series of stabbings have been released by West Midlands Police
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson said there would be a ‘full inquiry,’ into officers’ response. His comments came a day after cordons were raised in Irving Street in Birmingham city centre following a stabbing spree that left one man dead
Following the arrest, Birmingham Police Commander Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said: ‘Officers worked through yesterday and into the early hours of this morning in a bid to trace the man we believe responsible for these terrible crimes.
‘We issued CCTV footage of the suspect and had a strong response from the public. I’d like to thank everyone who shared our appeal and who provided information to the investigation.
‘One line of inquiry ultimately led us to an address in the Selly Oak area this morning where a man was arrested.
‘Clearly this is a crucial development but our investigation continues.
‘We still need to speak to any witnesses who saw what happened who’ve not yet spoken to us, or anyone who may have video footage or photos of the incidents or the attacker.’
Witnesses have described how sudden the attack was, with the suspect randomly confronting a man for speaking to a woman and stabbing him in the head, according to those at the scene.
One witness said: ‘The knifeman was deranged. He went up to a man and confronted him about chatting to a girl. The man had not done anything. He plunged a knife into his head. Then he ran up the road and stabbed a woman.’
Earlier, shocked witnesses described seeing a man stabbing a woman in the neck before walking off seemingly unconcerned.
A witness to the stabbings described the moment he saw a woman ‘stabbed in the neck’ during the horror attack.
Bar owner Savvas Sfrantziz says he saw the man, who he describes as ‘black, in his 20s and wearing a hoodie’, stab the woman ‘several times’ in the neck before ‘walking away’.
One man died in the stabbings, while seven were injured, including two people, a man and a woman, who are said to be in a critical condition in hospital with serious injuries.
Speaking about the attack, Mr Sfrantziz, who owns Mykonos bar on Hurst Street, where one of the attacks took place, told Sky News: ‘I saw him stabbing the girl several times in the neck. I was only about 20 yards away
‘She started screaming: ‘He’s stabbing me.’ But everybody thought he was robbing her because she had a necklace.
‘He wasn’t concerned, he wasn’t worried, after he stabbed the girl he started walking away.’
Yesterday, police chiefs revealed how they believed the victims were targeted ‘at random’ and that there is ‘no suggestion’ at this time that the stabbings were related to terrorism, gangs or hate crime.
Officers have also cordoned off an area in the city’s LGBT area, known as ‘Gay Village’, following the stabbings in Birmingham
Forensic officers cross a cordon on Hurst Walk, off Hurst Street, and near to the Arcadia Centre, where part of the attack took place
Pictures from yesterday show a knife which has been dug out from a drain in Edmund Street by police who are investigating the stabbings in Birmingham
West Midlands police commissioner says rise in violence ‘almost inevitable’ due to Covid
The West Midlands police and crime commissioner has said a rise in violence was ‘almost inevitable’ due to the pandemic in the wake of a spate of stabbings in Birmingham.
David Jamieson spoke at a press conference following the stabbings in Birmingham, telling reporters the city was ‘well used to activity’.
He said: ‘I think what is different is the randomness of this particular event but also the number of other events that were happening as well.
‘The amount of violence that was happening is actually very, very disturbing.’
Mr Jamieson said a rise in violence should be expected due to the lockdown and pandemic, though he added that Sunday’s incident may not be connected.
He continued: ‘I have been saying for some time, in the context of Covid-19, that a lot of the pent-up feelings that people have, and not being able to get out, and combine that with people who are now unsure about their future and about their jobs, it was almost inevitable that we would see a growth in violence.
‘I’m not saying that this is directly related to that, but nevertheless we are seeing now a growth of violence among younger people, particularly younger males, we’re seeing that growing across the region.
‘My fear is that if we don’t address that and some of the underlying problems with some urgency then we could see that grow.
‘But, notwithstanding that, Birmingham is a good place, it’s a good place to be, it’s a safe city and it is regrettable that this awful incident happened last night.’
‘We continue to hold a number of scenes across the city, including Livery Street, Irving Street and Hurst Street.’
Officers were first called to reports of a stabbing in the city centre at around 12.30am on Sunday.
Police say the incident began in Constitution Hill in the north of the city centre, moving towards the junction of Livery Street and Barwick Street in the Snow Hill area.
The attacker then moved south through the city centre before there were further attacks on Irving Street and Hurst Street, police believe.
Officers say there were multiple stabbings at each of the locations. Cordons are currently in place in each of the areas, including a forensic tent in Irving Street and Livery Street.
West Midlands Police did not reveal at which of the locations the murder took place but it has been reported a 23-year-old-man was killed at the Irving Street scene.
The attacker then reportedly crossed to Hurst Street and to the city’s Gay Village quarter where witnesses say they saw him stabbed a woman repeatedly in the neck. A 19-year-old man has also been critically injured.
Five others, aged 23 to 33, also suffered injuries in the brutal stabbing spree.
One of the areas to be cordoned off is the junction of Hurst Street and Bromsgrove Street.
The area is part of Birmingham’s Gay Village – an LGBT neighbourhood with a thriving night life featuring clubs, bars and live entertainment.
The area is also where Birmingham’s Gay Pride event takes place each year. Police say they do not believe the stabbings were motivated by hate and that the victims were not known to each other.
According to staff at LGBT bar Eden, customers were locked inside the venue as police swarmed the streets.
Owner Cal Eden told The Sun Online: ‘It was really, really frightening. I’ve never seen so many police. It was just an indiscriminate attack by the sounds of it.
‘It was really scary. We closed the doors because we didn’t want to scare our customers.’
Meanwhile, bar manager David Nash has told how he saw a hooded suspect run from the scene of the stabbings.
He said he later saw a casualty being treated for what appeared to be a neck wound as the suspected attacker fled after members of the public shouted ‘stop him, he’s stabbed somebody’.
Mr Nash was working at The Village Inn in Hurst Street, in the heart of Birmingham’s Gay Village area, when the man walked past the pub at about 2.20am.
‘I was on the street around 2.20am and we heard somebody shout down the street ‘stop him, he’s just stabbed somebody’ and initially it was a guy with a black hoodie on with the hood pulled up over his head, who was walking relatively casually.
‘As soon as somebody shouted ‘stop him’ that’s when he ran off into the area of Sherlock Street.’
The man was walking in the middle of the road opposite the bar, Mr Nash said, adding: ‘He just looked like an ordinary member of the public in the first instance.
‘He was calm, I wouldn’t say he was hurried. He wasn’t looking back. He just walked straight past.
‘I couldn’t see any weapon at all. Obviously it was dark, he was in dark clothing from what we could see.
Mayor of the West Midlands, Andy Street, asked people ‘not to speculate’ about the incident.
The Conservative mayor added: ‘West Midlands Police are set to hold a press conference this morning.
Two forensic officers behind a cordon near to Mexican chain restaurant Las Iguanas in Hurst Street, Birmingham, on Sunday
Officers have sealed off the junction between Hurst Street and Bromsgrove Street this morning. The area is near to where one of the incidents took place
‘My thoughts are with those affected, and my thanks to the emergency services working to deal with this incident.
‘The city remains open for business as usual this morning, but clearly people are asked to avoid the immediate area surrounding Hurst Street while police carry out their investigation. ‘
Meanwhile, Former Scotland Yard Detective Chief Superintendent Gerry Campbell criticised police for delaying the release of information.
He said in a tweet: ‘The Birmingham multiple stabbing has been running for almost 10 hours now without an informed update. With the absence of some updates people will speculate.’
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said in a statement on Twitter: ‘All my thoughts are with those affected by the terrible incident in Birmingham last night. My thanks to the emergency services who are working hard at the scene.
‘Anyone with information should contact @WMPolice.’
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer tweeted: ‘As we wait for news on the major incident in Birmingham overnight, all our thoughts are with the victims and anyone else affected. Thank you to our emergency services.’
Councillor Ian Ward, leader of Birmingham City Council, added: ‘We are extremely concerned about last night’s major incident in the city centre and of course our thoughts first and foremost are with anyone affected.
‘I’ve spoken to David Jamieson and assured him that we will be working with the police to establish what happened.
‘There is no room in Birmingham for this level of violence, and we ask that everyone co-operate with the police and follow their guidance.’