Mother Responds to Inquest Verdict on Son Fatally Stabbed by Paranoid Schizophrenic

Credits: Verywell Health

A mother whose son was killed by a paranoid schizophrenic has condemned the “catastrophic” decision to release his killer from prison.

Jacob Billington, 23, was one of eight victims of knifeman Zephaniah McLeod – who stabbed seven other people, causing serious and life-changing injuries, during a series of “brutal” attacks in Birmingham city center in September 2020.

Reacting to the coroner’s verdict on Friday that her son was unlawfully killed, Joanne Billington said multiple failings by agencies allowed McLeod – who she described as a “violent” and “dangerous” man – to be freed from prison and go on to carry out the attacks.

Mother’s Reaction to Son’s Condition (Credits: Mindful Little Minds)

“My son Jacob was a fantastic young man who lost his life in horrific circumstances at the hands of an extremely mentally ill individual,” she said. “This is every parent’s nightmare – and it became our reality.”

McLeod, who admitted manslaughter by diminished responsibility over the killing, was sentenced to life in prison with a minimum term of 21 years at Birmingham Crown Court in 2021 for manslaughter, four counts of attempted murder, and three charges of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

He was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia in 2013 but “never” had proper treatment, his sentencing hearing in 2021 was told.

Ms Billington said: “Throughout the sentencing and serious case review, we discovered that the offender was well-known to all the agencies we would expect to keep the public safe. He never complied with anything the services offered and refused to take his medication.

“He was released from prison with no supervision at the end of his sentence, and there was no effective release planning for this dangerous individual, and the risk to the public was never seriously considered.”Services failed to such an extent that it was not known where he was or even what city he was in.

“We also found out that McLeod had been subject to enhanced public protection arrangements but was removed from this six months before release simply because he was not complying with the process.

“This was a catastrophic decision that meant many effective measures for monitoring McLeod were taken away. “This dangerous man with a severe and enduring mental illness whose risk to the public was well-documented simply walked out of prison and disappeared.”

Mr Billington, a musician who worked at Sheffield Hallam University, was a “funny, caring and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met”, his family said in a statement after his death.

Police said Mr Billington was stabbed in Irving Street at about 1.52am while out with school friends from Liverpool – they were visiting one of their group who was studying in Birmingham.

A report published last year following an NHS investigation identified four opportunities authorities missed to understand better the risk McLeod, who had a long history of violent offenses and failed to take prescribed medication, posed.

It said five months before carrying out the attacks, McLeod was released from HMP Parc in South Wales “on his sentence end date and was not subject to any form of supervision, nor was he obliged to engage with agencies such as the police if they were to offer him any support.”

McLeod’s first contact with police came in 2007 when he received a caution at 14. In 2018, McLeod told a psychiatrist that he was “hearing voices, both male and female, telling him to “kill ’em… stab ’em… they are talking about you”.

Between 2011 and 2020, he spent most of his time in prison for a string of violent offenses. During that time, he “was not appropriately treated and medicated”, the report said.

Following his release in April 2020, there was no record of where he had gone, and by July, he was deemed to be “lost to services”.

He contacted a GP in August 2020, and a non-urgent referral was made to the Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health NHS Trust, and he was offered an appointment on 3 September. After McLeod refused to attend, a new date was set for 24 September. By then, he had carried out the attacks.

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