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Manhunt for 'stabbing frenzy' suspect Stephen McFarlane ends as he is detained in east Belfast

By Suzanne Breen

Published 15/01/2016

Police advised the public not to approach Stephen McFarlane. PSNI
Police advised the public not to approach Stephen McFarlane. PSNI
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture Kevin Scott.
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture: Kevin Scott.
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture Kevin Scott.
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture Kevin Scott.
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture Kevin Scott.
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture Kevin Scott.
Police at the scene of the arrest. Picture Kevin Scott.
Police seal off a house while forensic experts examine the scene of a serious assault - A woman is critically ill in hospital after an assault at a house in Carnmoney, County Antrim. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
Police seal off a house while forensic experts examine the scene of a serious assault - A woman is critically ill in hospital after an assault at a house in Carnmoney, County Antrim. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
Police seal off a house while forensic experts examine the scene of a serious assault - A woman is critically ill in hospital after an assault at a house in Carnmoney, County Antrim. Picture by Justin Kernoghan
Officers at scene of the attack
Stephen McFarlane

A man wanted by police following a brutal assault which left a young mother seriously injured in hospital has been detained by police.

The PSNI last night issued an appeal for help in tracking down 33-year-old Stephen McFarlane but warned the public not to approach him.

He has reportedly made contact with a relative by telephone.

On Friday morning police released a picture of a car similar to what he may be driving in a bid to track him down.

Police believe the car's number plates may have been removed.

This afternoon police located and detained the 33-year-old in the Newtownards Road area of east Belfast just before 2pm.

Detective Inspector Chris Millar said: “I would like to thank the public and the media for their assistance in this matter. We received a number of calls from members of the public throughout our search and we are grateful for that co-operation. Our investigation into this serious assault will now continue.”

The young mother was stabbed in a "frenzied attack" at her home in Glengormley in Newtownabbey, Co Antrim, on Wednesday evening.

She was initially in a critical condition in hospital, but friends of the family last night said that the victim was now out of danger and had been able to speak to detectives.

One friend of the woman's added: "She was in a very bad state when she was brought into hospital and we feared she wouldn't make it.

"The medical staff fought a tremendous battle to save her life. It was touch-and-go for a long time.

"Her father was desperately concerned about her. Her condition improved as the day went on. She started breathing on her own and they were able to take her off life support.

"When she woke up at first she didn't talk, she just cried, but then she gathered herself together and found the strength to speak to detectives and tell them what happened."

It was first thought the woman was stabbed at least seven times on Wednesday evening in her Ashgrove Road home, but when she was treated it was found she was wounded up to 27 times.

Neighbours reportedly heard her screaming for help during the attack.

The young mother allegedly managed to phone emergency services for assistance before her assailant snatched the phone from her and fled.

Friends said she works as a classroom assistant. She had previously worked as a waitress in a north Belfast pub where she had been a popular member of staff. Her children are currently staying with relatives.

Mr McFarlane, who also has children, was recently working as a mechanic in Mallusk.

Police last night released a photograph of the suspect and appealed for assistance in finding him. A warrant was also issued for his arrest.

Mr McFarlane is a fitness fanatic known for spending a lot of time training in the gym. He also worked for a time as a doorman.

"Stephen prided himself on his appearance. He was very, very fit. At his birthday party one year a picture of a toned male torso was emblazoned across the cake," one friend said.

Local DUP Assembly Member Paula Bradley, who lives close to where the attack took place, expressed her outrage at the assault.

"This is a very quiet residential area and local residents in Ashgrove are shocked and horrified by what happened," she said.

"My thoughts and prayers are with this young woman and I hope that she will make a full recovery."

Local SDLP councillor Noreen McClelland added: "This was a vicious and despicable attack on a young woman who lived in this home with her children.

"It has appalled us all in the local community. We can only imagine the terror she felt. Whoever is behind this must be found and brought to justice."

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