Stabbing at Belfast Metropolitan College's Millfield campus: 'He ran past me in the corridor, his clothes were soaked in blood. I was trying to calm him down'
Normally a place of sanctuary and learning, a Belfast college was gripped by terror after a horrific knife attack left a young man with multiple stab wounds.
Terrified students told how they encountered another, covered in blood and in a hysterical state, running through the building's corridors.
He made his way into the busy car park in the centre of the complex, pursued by security staff, and was apprehended by police within minutes.
Some looked on a short time later as a victim was stretchered by paramedics from a toilet block after being stabbed.
He was rushed to hospital, where he remained in a serious but stable condition last night.
Some of those inside the block likened the scene they came upon as they fled from the building to a horror film.
A teacher was said to have risked their life by intervening in the altercation between two men in the restrooms of Block Two of the Millfield site, during which both were injured. Police cordoned off the building and the surrounding car park while dogs were used in the search for a weapon.
Forensic officers also spent the afternoon gathering clues as to what happened.
There were unconfirmed reports a Stanley knife was used in the attack.
Upset pupils with learning difficulties congregated with teaching staff inside the building shortly afterwards as they waited for relatives to collect them from the college.
Counsellors on the site offered support to those deeply shaken by the incident.
Witnesses said the men –aged 21 and 26 – were students at Belfast Metropolitan College and both have learning difficulties.
Shortly after 11am, a young female student said one ran past her in a corridor crying uncontrollably, his clothing soaked with blood.
Fearing he had injured himself in an accident she called out, offering to help.
She said he didn't respond and fled from the building.
"He was distraught," she said.
"I was trying to get him to calm down. He looked badly injured. There was blood everywhere."
Patrick McCaffrey, a media student, said he saw a man being carried by paramedics on a stretcher.
"He was covered in blood," he said. "You couldn't see his face but you could tell he was in a bad way.
"There was a lot of panic."
The building remained cordoned off throughout the day and a number of classes were cancelled.
The families of young people with learning difficulties arrived shortly afterwards to take them home.
The sister of one said she headed straight to the campus after receiving a phone call telling her there had been an incident.
Monica McCollum said: "It was very worrying. Nobody has told us what actually happened, but the campus is the last place you would expect anything like this."
Cathy Gowdy, a student at the college, said: "My friend and I were coming out of our class this morning and, coming down the stairs, we noticed a lot of blood
"I just took it that it was maybe someone with a nosebleed, but when we got outside there was complete pandemonium. There was security running everywhere and the police were running everywhere and there were two ambulances, and we just heard that someone had been stabbed."
Others told how they were evacuated from their classrooms minutes after the incident.
"When they said about a stabbing, nobody could believe it," one said.
"Everybody was panicking," added Ryan McInerney.
"It was very tense."
National Union of Students president Rebecca Hall said she was shocked by news of the attack.
She said: "This is deeply tragic news. My thoughts are with the people that were injured in this incident, and I hope that they make a swift recovery.
"It's extremely shocking and sad to hear that something like this has happened. Any students who feel that they need support in light of this incident should talk to staff at their students' union."
The college has offered counselling services for those left in a distressed state following the incident, which it said was unheard of in its history.