Knife attack victim still struggles to speak and is missing part of his skull

A man who was left in a coma following a knife attack recalled the moment he watched his childhood best friend stabbed to death in front of him.

Michael Callaghan, 24, from Crosby, spent more than six months in hospital after he was stabbed in the neck while on a night out in Birmingham while visiting friends.

His friend, 23-year-old Jacob Billington, died and six other people were injured when Zephaniah McLeod went on a rampage lasting several hours around the city.

Michael said that while he understands McLeod was experiencing paranoid schizophrenia at the time, he doesn’t believe he should be given a lesser sentence, ITV reports.

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He said: « He’s admitted that he attempted to murder me. Jacob had the same injuries, so he was attempting to murder Jacob too.

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« He added: « I don’t believe his punishment should be any less because he’s a paranoid schizophrenic.

« The best case scenario is that all the charges add up to a very long sentence.

« That would only be the smallest relief as we won’t get Jacob back. In time I’ll recover, but I can’t get Jacob back. »

Michael and Jacob were on their way back to a hotel in the early hours of September 6 when they were approached by McLeod.

Michael said: « This man McLeod came up to me and Jacob and asked us if we had a lighter, and we both said, ‘no sorry mate’.

« My memory then is that I heard a scream, which must have been Jacob, and then I put my hand to my neck and I could feel the wound.

« I kind of followed Jacob to where he collapsed. »

Michael fell into the arms of another friend, who was able to stem his bleeding and save his life. However, the knife had severed Michael’s carotid artery, jugular vein and vagus nerve.

While in hospital, Michael suffered a stroke and surgeons had to perform a craniectomy. He remained in an induced coma for three weeks.

He spent a total of 187 days in hospital and his left arm remains paralysed.

He struggles to talk because of the damage to his vocal chords and he is awaiting an operation to replace a missing part of his skull.

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Michael said: « Obviously I’ve had a lot of injuries, but in time my skull will be fixed, my arm will come back and my voice will be fixed. I’ll recover, but we can’t get Jacob back. »

Last week, McLeod pleaded guilty to manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility, four counts of attempted murder and three counts of wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.

His attack started at 12.30am on September 6 on Constitution Hill, when he stabbed a 33-year-old man in the neck.

He then stabbed a 25-year-old woman in the shoulder on Livery Street, and critically injured a 29-year-old man after knifing him in the chest on Barwick Street.

McLeod then dumped his knife in a drain, got a taxi home to Selly Oak and re-armed himself, before heading back out about an hour later.

It was then that he approached Jacob and Michael on Irving Street. After attacking them, McLeod stabbed two more men in their 20s, and a 23-year-old woman.

Detective Chief Inspector Jim Munro, from West Midlands Police, said the force did not automatically link the attacks that evening.

He said: « It’s not unusual for us to receive several reports of assaults, some involving weapons, on a busy weekend evening, so the incidents were not automatically linked.

« Our CCTV operators immediately began exploring footage around the scenes that had been reported to us and later that day we identified a potential suspect linked to each attack, so we began tracking his movements. »

He added: « 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. »

McLeod will be sentenced, pending psychiatric reports, at the end of September.