Man jailed for stabbing two cousins in north Belfast

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A 40-year old man who stabbed two cousins in an early-morning knife attack at a block of flats in north Belfast was sent to jail for eight-and a-half years on Friday.

John James Bell was arrested outside the flats on the Limestone Road brandishing two blood-stained knives, and threatening to kill three officers as he was being detained.

Initially facing two charges of attempted murder, Bell admitted two counts of maliciously and unlawfully wounding the cousins with intent to cause them grievous bodily harm.

While one of the victims was stabbed five times in the upper body, the other victim sustained very serious wounds which injured his internal organs. He was rushed to hospital where at one point he received 24 units of blood. He also sustained a laceration to his kidney and lung, and had to have his spleen removed.

Sending Bell to jail, Judge David McFarland said the more seriously injured man was “lucky to survive the incident” and praised the medical staff who saved his life.

Bell, from Broom Park in Dunmurry, was told he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remainder on licence when he is released from custody.

Belfast Crown Court heard the double stabbing occurred at around 6.30am on October 19, 2015. Bell - who at the time lived in the same block of flats as one of his victims - had been drinking with the cousins and had called police to tell them two men tried to stab him so he stabbed them back.

When police arrived at the flats, Bell came out of the building armed with two knives. One of the men had been attacked close to the entrance to the flats, while the more seriously injured man was found lying 150 yards away, covered in blood.

Prosecuting barrister Peter Magill said that prior to the stabbing, the two cousins and Bell had been drinking in a flat, that an argument broke out and Bell was asked to leave.

Moments later, he was captured on CCTV standing outside the block of flats “shouting up and asking the cousins for a fight.” One cousin went down to the door and was attacked by Bell, and when the second man appeared, he was chased by Bell and stabbed five times.

Mr Magill described the second man’s injuries as “extremely serious” and said he was “very close to death” and his condition only settled three weeks after being rushed to hospital.

The prosecutor said that whilst the cousins have “pre-existing difficulties”, they were both left with elements of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Telling Judge McFarland that the Crown rejected any claims that Bell was acting in self-defence, Mr Magill said the defendant had 52 previous convictions on his criminal record.

Gavan Duffy QC, the barrister acting for Bell, spoke of his client’s “very difficult childhood”, which he said contributed to Bell mis-using both drink and drugs, including heroin.

Highlighting both Bell’s addiction to heroin - a “major blight of his life” - and mental health problems around the time of the stabbing, Mr Duffy said Bell was also under a paramilitary threat.

The barrister said that prior to the incident, all three men had taken “a large quantity of cocaine” and at some point one of the cousins threatened to knife Bell, which prompted him to leave.

Mr Duffy also spoke of the different version of events given by the two cousins.

As he sent Bell to prison, Judge McFarland spoke of “elements of confusion” about what happened, due to the “significant amount of alcohol taken by all parties.” The Judge also spoke of “nasty” threats made by Bell to “police officers undertaking a public duty and attempting to arrest” him.

As he was being led from the dock in handcuffs, Bell became embroiled in a verbal confrontation with a man and woman sitting in the public gallery, who clapped and called him ‘an animal’