A man who stabbed a woman more than 20 times has admitted trying to kill her in a frenzied knife attack at a north Belfast health centre.
Mary McReynolds was left fighting for her life and it is believed she only survived because of the location of the stabbing – Grove Wellbeing Centre – meaning she received vital life-saving treatment at the scene.
She smiled at friends and family and clapped her hands together as 24-year-old Darren Todd admitted one count of attempted murder at Belfast Crown Court yesterday.
It came as a leading public service union accused Belfast Health & Social Care Trust of failing to take adequate steps to prevent the attack from happening.
Norman Gray from Nipsa also said staff and users of Grove – and other similar facilities across the city – were still at risk as the trust had not implemented proper security measures.
Todd, of Pound Street in Newtownards, had denied trying to kill Ms McReynolds since the attack in August 2011, but changed his plea to guilty yesterday as his trial was due to get under way.
He spoke twice during the brief hearing – to confirm his name and to reply guilty when he was re-arraigned.
The case was adjourned until next month to allow pre-sentence reports to be compiled.
Reacting to yesterday's hearing, Mr Gray said: "It is a welcome development that this man has admitted attempted murder, meaning the staff member who witnessed the incident did not have to relive her traumatic ordeal in court. However, the impact of this incident on everyone involved cannot be underestimated.
"The employee who saw what happened is still living with the psychological effects. This was a serious incident, it wasn't just a minor fight, someone nearly died.
"It is even worse as the trust had given an assurance that it was safe for the victim and the attacker to meet at the centre, so the fact that she was so badly injured would suggest the attack could and should have been prevented.
"It is extremely frustrating, therefore, that we are still asking the trust to implement health and safety measures that would ensure the safety of staff and clients at the centres. They appear to be dragging their feet and ignoring our advice, the advice of the PSNI and even their own risk assessments."
A trust spokeswoman said: "We take health and safety in all our premises very seriously.
"Since August 2011 we have reviewed our procedures in the Grove Wellbeing Centre and have made several changes."
She said staff had received additional training, personal panic alarms and they can also access a counselling service.