A 20-year old who stabbed a man through the heart in an attack in Belfast city centre was told on Tuesday he will serve a minimum sentence of nine years in jail for the murder.
Callin Wilson showed no emotion when Judge Patricia Smyth told him “there is no question that you pose a significant danger to others”.
Hazem Ahmed Ghreir, who made Northern Ireland his home after fleeing war-torn Syria in 2015 with his brother Rami, died from a single stab wound to the heart.
Belfast Crown Court heard that while Wilson has given numerous and differing accounts of what occurred on the evening of June 4, 2017, it seemed likely Mr Ghreir (30) saw him engaging in “inappropriate behaviour” such as tampering with a bicycle.
Addressing Wilson, Judge Smyth said: “In a public-spirited way, he sought to intervene, running towards you and taking hold of your shoulder.
“You were observed removing your right hand from the pocket of your hooded top and making a sharp movement towards Mr Ghreir’s chest. It is the prosecution case that this is the point at which you stabbed him.
“Mr Ghreir was able to follow you and restrain you for a period before he collapsed.”
The fatal incident occurred close to the Dublin Road, and on the evening in question, Mr Ghreir was working as a delivery driver for a fast-food restaurant.
After stabbing Mr Ghreir, Wilson initially walked away but returned and put Mr Ghreir in the recovery position using his feet. He again left the scene, but returned and after rifling through Mr Ghrier’s pockets he stole his iPhone.
While Mr Ghreir was rushed to the RVH, where he was pronounced dead from a single stab wound to his chest at 11.15pm, Wilson walked to a nearby Tesco Express. He was arrested leaving the store, and told police “I didn’t do anything.” Also found on him was a blood-stained knife.
During Tuesday’s sentencing, it emerged that Wilson has a mental disorder branded as “complex” by Judge Smyth. She said there was “clear evidence” that Wilson displayed signs of this as far back as infancy, and revealed he was referred to child and adolescent mental health services back in 2010.
Also noted by Judge Smyth were concerns about Wilson’s opportunistic behaviour, cruelty to animals and inappropriate sexual behaviour, as well as “concerning incidents in school” including trying to put a wire round a female teacher’s neck.
Wilson, the judge said, also had a fascination with knifes and an unhealthy interest in TV programmes depicting crime scenes.
At the time of the murder, Wilson was living, without any assistance or supervision and aged 18, at Flax Foyer in Belfast, which is accommodation for homeless young people.
Citing Wilson’s long-standing mental condition, concerns expressed by the medical profession and the fact he was not under any care of service in June 2014, Judge Smyth said: “Questions need to be asked how the safety net deemed necessary to protect both you and innocent members of the community failed to emerge, so that tragedies like this do not happen in the future.”
Wilson was told he will serve a minimum term of nine years before he is considered eligible for release by the Paroles Commission. If and when he is released, he will serve the rest of his life sentence on licence.
He was also handed a concurrent 12-month sentence for both possessing and making indecent images of children. The charges relate to 426 images of children, mostly teenage boys, which were found on his laptop when his accommodation was searched by police after the murder.