Praise for heroic neighbour, aged 80, who survived 32 stab wounds

The scene of the crime in December 2013
The scene of the crime in December 2013

An ex-soldier in his 80s has been lavishly praised for managing to overpower a knife-wielding thug in the midst of a stabbing spree – whilst suffering 32 stab wounds in the process.

Korean War veteran Samuel Gaynor had been watching television on the sofa at the time of the unprovoked attack, in which Craig Binnie stabbed several victims.

Mr Gaynor had put his slippers on and gone to investigate after hearing a disturbance and noticing his neighbour in distress outside.

His actions which followed led him to being described as “incredibly brave” by a judge.

When the knifeman – Binnie, a 43-year-old Scot – noticed Mr Gaynor (who was then aged 80), he launched a frenzied attack against him.

Mr Gaynor said: “He kept raining blows and stabbing me and I finally fell to the floor.

“He then backed off for a minute then came at me again and again and again, jumping on my legs and body and kicking me then stabbing me.

“I was defending myself as best I could and I knew at this point he was trying to kill me and that I was fighting for my life.

“I then realised that if he finished me off, he would or could go to my house and attack my wife.

“I remember thinking that I had to take this man down.”

He proceeded to wrestle the knife away from Binnie, who claimed he had been suffering from major withdrawal symptoms at the time due to cannabis and alcohol abuse.

Binnie was jailed for 13 years, after pleading guilty to four counts of wounding with intent and a fifth count of wounding.

Binnie launched his attack in the Ballyduff estate, Newtownabbey, as his then-partner Angela Bell visited her mother Nancy McDowell on the evening of December 30, 2013.

Binnie – from Tynan Drive in Monkstown, Newtownabbey – armed himself with two kitchen knives. When Angela Bell asked what he was doing, he stabbed her.

He then stabbed Lisa Donaghy – the mother of Ms Bell’s grandson – before continuing his attack on Angela Bell as she lay prone on the floor.

Nancy McDowell – a 77-year-old who was recovering from brain surgery at the time – also tried to intervene, but slipped and fell as she tried to get out of her chair.

The grandmother threw her slipper at Binnie, who then turned his attention towards the pensioner.

Despite their injuries, some of those in the house managed to escape and raised the alarm with Samuel Gaynor (who is now aged 82).

Also injured during the incident was Ms Bell’s brother Robert McDowell, who found Binnie with a knife in his abdomen.

When he asked Binnie “what have you done?”, Binnie tried to stab himself again and then turned the weapon against Mr McDowell.

In a statement handed by Mr Gaynor to a reporter at court in Belfast, he said after coming under attack from Binnie: “I don’t know where I got the strength from, but I fought my way to my feet and overpowered him and got the knife away from him.

“I knew this was my only chance of survival.

“I was getting weak now and I made my way to my own house.

“My wife saw me coming while she was phoning the police and ambulance... She then laid me down on the dining room floor with a pillow under my head.

“My kitchen and dining room where like a war zone – blood and bloody towels everywhere. Then my left leg stopped moving and I could not breathe as my right lung had been punctured.

“I remember saying to my wife: ‘Love, I did my best, I think I’m going.’

“I then collapsed as I had lost a lot of blood.”

When arrested, Binnie initially refused to answer police questions, but later presented a written statement in which he claimed he had believed his life was in “imminent danger”.

He claimed he had withdrawal symptoms from drink and drugs which included paranoia, and his statement said: “At no stage did I intend to kill anyone or cause serious injury. I suffer from serious mental health problems and in the past, and including the incident in question, I have attempted to take my own life.”

Binnie had previous convictions for violence. He claims to have no recollection of the incident.

Judge Kerr handed Binnie a 13-year prison sentence, with an extended four-year period on licence imposed.

The judge said Mr Gaynor had been “incredibly brave”, and had confronted Binnie “with little regard for his own safety”.

Ex-partner Ms Bell (who was stabbed in the chest) called Binnie “evil” and said: “If it wasn’t for Sammy, I don’t know what the outcome of that evening would have been.

“I might not be here now if it wasn’t for him. In my opinion he saved my life and the lives of my family, and I’ll always be so grateful to him.”

Her son Edward added: “Sammy is a real hero to do what he did that night.”