Belfast Telegraph

Slashing of man's face fuels fears of NI knife crimewave

Fatally stabbed: Reece Leeman
Fatally stabbed: Reece Leeman

By Gillian Halliday

Concern has been raised over rising knife crime in Northern Ireland after a man was slashed across the face.

The victim required 20 stitches after the incident in the Cliftonville Road area of north Belfast at around 9.30pm on Wednesday.

Elsewhere, a 33-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of a number of offences including hijacking and possession of a blade after a car was stolen in the New Lodge in north Belfast.

At around 11.30am yesterday a male jumped into a motorist's vehicle and produced a knife.

The driver fell out of the car and ran away.

He was not injured but was left very badly shaken.

The attacks come just weeks after 21-year-old Belfast man Reece Leeman died in a stabbing following an altercation at a property in the east of the city.

A 28-year-old man has since been charged with murder in relation to the incident.

In a separate incident, two people were left in hospital after a masked gang armed with knives broke into in their west Belfast home on April 2.

Commenting on Wednesday's incident at Cliftonville Road, SDLP councillor Paul McCusker described the slashing as terrifying and senseless.

"News of this attack is horrifying - there is no excuse for carrying, let alone using, weapons in our community," Mr McCusker said.

It was recently revealed that almost 800 serious knife crimes were recorded in Northern Ireland last year.

PSNI statistics published last month showed that of the 778 reported incidents involving knives, five resulted in killings, with an additional 29 classed as attempted murders and 58 as threats to kill.

The figures also revealed that an average of around two violent or sexual offences involving the use of a blade were recorded here every day in 2018.

Recent high-profile knife crime cases include that of killer Nathan Ward, who was jailed last month for 17 years for the fatal stabbing of Lisburn woman Jayne Toal Reat.

Ms Toal Reat, who was killed on Christmas Day 2017, died at the hands of Ward after she caught him trying to sexually assault her daughter.

In March, Callin Wilson (20), of no fixed abode, was sentenced to nine years for a fatal knife attack on a Syrian man, Hazem Ahmed Ghreir, in Belfast nearly two years ago.

Knife crime has also been in the national headlines in recent weeks following a spate of murders in UK cities, including the killings of three 17-year-olds in less than a week in England.

Mr McCusker said the increase in such crimes was deeply worrying. "I am extremely concerned that this type of behaviour is going to end in another fatality," he added.

"People have the right to feel safe in our community without having to worry about these totally avoidable and inexcusable incidents."

A 34-year-old man arrested within hours of the Cliftonville incident has since been charged with wounding with intent to do grievous bodily harm.

Detective Sergeant Patrick Conlan said the arrest followed the search of a number of premises in Cliftonville Avenue.

The suspect is due to appear at Belfast Magistrates' Court next Friday.

Mr Conlan added: "Anyone who witnessed this incident or who has any information is asked to contact detectives at Musgrave on 101 quoting reference number 1285 10/04/19."

Information can also be provided anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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