Tragic Syrian stabbed to death as he ‘tried to stop bike crime’ in Belfast city centre

A 20-year-old man who stabbed a delivery driver through the heart may never be released from prison, a court has heard.

Friday, 1st March 2019, 7:49 pm
Updated Friday, 1st March 2019, 8:55 pm
Hazem Ahmed Ghreir

Callin Wilson, who medical experts agreed has a deep-seated mental abnormality, admitted murdering Hazem Ahmed Ghreir in the centre of Belfast in June 2017, and has already been handed a life sentence.

A hearing was held at Belfast Crown Court today to determine how long Wilson will spend in prison before he is considered by the Parole Commission to be eligible for release.

After listening to submissions from the Crown and defence, Judge Patricia Smyth said she wanted time to consider all the relevant information, and adjourned the tariff hearing until March 14.

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Prior to this, Judge Smyth was told by defence barrister Patrick Lyttle QC that due to Wilson’s complex medical history “there is a real possibility in this case that this man may never be released”, and that a life sentence for him could mean just that.

The court heard in the aftermath of the fatal stabbed Wilson told lies, and that in the two years since the murder, he has given a number of inconsistent and different versions of what occurred.

Setting out the Crown case, Neil Connor QC said that on June 4, 2017, Wilson was living at Flax Foyer in Belfast. He was seen on CCTV leaving his accommodation just before 8pm and walking into the city centre. On the same night, Syrian national Hazem Ahmed Ghreir was working as a delivery driver for a fast food outlet on the Dublin Road.

Wilson was seen again on CCTV in the eTaps hotel on the Dublin Road at 10.27pm, and three minutes later he is seen appearing to tamper with bikes down the side of the hotel. He walks off at 10.40pm, with a camera picking up Mr Ghreir in the area around 30 seconds later.

It’s the Crown case said a witness then saw “an encounter” between Wilson and Mr Ghreir, where Mr Ghreir grabbed Wilson’s shoulder. The deceased had a phone in his hand, while Wilson’s hands were in the front pocket of his hoodie.

Wilson then moved his right hand in a quick movement to Mr Ghreir’s chest which caused Mr Ghreir to “appear shocked ... and his eyes opened wide.” Wilson walked off in the direction of Little Victoria Street, and Mr Ghreir, clutching his chest, stumbled forward but followed Wilson.

A second witness then saw Mr Ghreir chase Wilson and push him against shutters. Wilson ended up lying face-down with Mr Ghreir kneeling on him, with Mr Connor telling the court at this point “Mr Ghreir appeared to have succumbed to the injury he sustained. He appeared to get weaker, then he fell back on the footpath.”

Wilson then got to his feet and told a taxi driver who had stopped “it’s fine, don’t worry about it.” 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 stole Mr Ghreir phone.

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.”

When asked if he was carrying any weapons, Wilson said: “I have a knife in my front pocket which I bought today.” The knife, which was splattered with Mr Ghreir’s blood, was later confirmed as the murder weapon.

Mr Connor said that due to the number of inconsistencies, it was impossible to determine why Wilson stabbed Mr Ghreir - but said it was the Crown’s case the deceased had seen Wilson engaging in criminal activity such as tampering with the bikes and “in a public spirited way” had intervened.

Judge Patricia Smyth was told of the devastating effect the death Mr Ghreir has had on his family in Syria, and his brother Rami. She was told the brothers travelled to Europe together and settled in Northern Ireland.

Rami Ghreir said his brother had a “magnetic personality”, was always helping others and was always smiling, while a colleague described him as “a very quiet and calm gentleman.”

Following the murder, Wilson was examined by a number of medics and extensive psychiatric reports were compiled. And while there was a disagreement between the Crown and defence experts about the exact condition he has, all the experts agreed he had a deep seated mental abnormality.

It also emerged that following his arrest, Wilson’s accommodation was searched and 426 indecent images of children, mostly teenage boys, were found on his laptop.

When the issue of Wilson’s intention towards Mr Ghreir was raised, Mr Connor said: “The infliction of the stab wound to the heart of the victim, the most vulnerable area, even if it was a single stab wound, may well show an intention to kill.”

Defence barrister Patrick Lyttle disagreed with his, and said the fact that only moderate force was used indicated a lack of intent to kill, as did his lack of criminal record and also that no other blows were administered.

Mr Lyttle spoke of his client’s long-standing mental issues, saying he “fell between the cracks between child and adolescent care and adult care”, and in the period leading to the stabbing Wilson was living an isolated life with no friends and very little contact with his family.

Regarding Wilson’s inconsistencies in the aftermath, Mr Lyttle said: “If you speak to him on a different day, you will get a different version of events. That’s the nature of his condition.”

Mr Lyttle also expressed condolences on behalf of Wilson who “appreciates he has caused terrible harm and terrible loss to Mr Ghreir’s family.”