A 27-year-old man has appeared in court charged with murder and seven counts of attempted murder after a series of stabbings in Birmingham.
Zephaniah McLeod, of Nately Grove, Selly Oak, appeared at Birmingham Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday following knife attacks which resulted in the death of Jacob Billington on Sunday, West Midlands Police said.
McLeod spoke only to confirm his personal details during a five-minute appearance before two magistrates.
He appeared over a videolink because of routine Covid-19 safety measures operating in court.
He could be seen seated in a chair wearing a light grey T-shirt, with an appropriate adult close by.
Throughout the hearing he rubbed his face, forehead and ear with his hands, frequently obscuring his face.
McLeod was asked for his date of birth several times, before eventually confirming the details to the court clerk.
During the hearing, which lasted a total of 18 minutes including legal submissions, the court clerk read out the details of the charges faced by McLeod, who was not asked for any pleas.
The court heard the alleged victims of the attempted murder charges are Dimitar Bachvarov, Migle Dolobauskaite, Thomas Glassey, Michael Callaghan, Shane Rowley, Rhys Cummings and Ryan Bowers.
Adjourning the proceedings, chairman of the bench David Warner told the court: "Before we retire, I would just like to express the court’s sympathy with everybody who has been affected by these tragic events."
The defendant was remanded to appear by videolink at the city’s Crown Court on Thursday.
The force declared a major incident after Mr Billington was killed and seven other people were stabbed during a rampage in the city centre spanning some 90 minutes.
Two of the victims remain in a critical condition – with one, a 22-year-old woman, now critical but stable.
Another man, aged 30, remains in a serious condition in hospital, while four others have been discharged.
Mr Billington was fatally stabbed in Irving Street, Birmingham, at about 1.52am, while out with old school friends from Liverpool, who were visiting the city.
A post-mortem examination concluded he died from a stab wound to the neck.
His devastated family paid tribute to him as the “light of our life”, in a statement issued through police on Monday.
The 23-year-old, from Crosby, Merseyside, had been working as a library intern at Sheffield Hallam University after graduating from there and was also a drummer in a band.
A university spokesman said: “Jacob was a Sheffield Hallam graduate and had joined the library as a graduate intern, where his warmth and enthusiasm made him a greatly valued member of our team.
“Our thoughts and condolences are with his family, friends and colleagues at this very difficult time.”
One of Mr Billington’s friends, Michael Callaghan, also 23 and a fellow bandmate, was seriously injured in the attack.
Both men had previously attended Sacred Heart Catholic College in Crosby, where prayers were said on Monday evening for their families.
In a statement the school said: "We are saddened at the events in Birmingham which took Jacob’s life and left Michael critically injured."
It added: "We are praying for Michael’s recovery and will never forget Jacob, his life touched so many in our school."
Three people arrested early on Monday at an address in Selly Oak on suspicion of assisting an offender have all been released pending investigation, police said.
Detective Chief Inspector Jim Munro, leading the investigation, said: "Since these tragic events unfolded in the early hours of Sunday morning we’ve had a team of officers working non-stop on the investigation.
"Our driving focus is to secure justice for the victims, their family and friends.
"Our sympathies remain with everyone who’s been impacted by these terrible crimes.
"Our investigation continues and I would urge any witnesses who’ve not yet spoken to us, or anyone with information they feel could help, to get in touch."
Suzanne Llewellyn, deputy chief crown prosecutor of Crown Prosecution Service West Midlands, said: "Following an incident in Birmingham city centre in the early hours of September 6 2020, the CPS has authorised West Midlands Police to charge Zephaniah McLeod with one count of murder and seven counts of attempted murder.
"This decision was made following careful consideration of the evidence presented to us by West Midlands Police as a result of their ongoing investigation.
"Our thoughts remain with the families and friends of the victims affected in this incident."