A chief constable has attacked the “ill-informed critique” of his officers’ response to the Birmingham knife attacks, amid claims that alleged delays may have cost a man his life.
David Thompson, who heads West Midlands Police, said there would be a “time and place to the review the actions” of police, after a 23-year-old man was killed and seven others injured, some critically, during a spate of stabbings on Sunday.
But he said: “Engaging in an ill-informed critique of this investigation, particularly at such an early stage, is both unhelpful and simply makes the job of the police harder.”
Khalid Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said in The Times: “Potentially, had the alarm been set up early enough, the individual who is now deceased could have been saved.”
There has also been criticism from the public about the time taken to issue CCTV images of a suspect.
Jacob Billington, 23, was fatally stabbed in Irving Street, Birmingham, at about 1.52am on Sunday, while out with old school friends from Liverpool, who were visiting the city, West Midlands Police said.
His devastated family paid tribute to Mr Billington as the “light of our life”.
One of his friends, also 23, was seriously injured and remains in hospital in a critical condition, the force added.
In a statement issued through police, Mr Billington’s family said: “Jacob was the light of our life and we have been devastated by his loss.
“He was a funny, caring and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met.
“He lit up every room with his boundless energy and witty humour and the loss of such a special person will be felt by all who knew him for years to come.
“We ask that our privacy is respected during this difficult time.”
A 27-year-old man arrested on suspicion of murder and seven counts of attempted murder following the string of knife attacks, remains in custody.
He was detained at an address in the Selly Oak area of the city, at 4am.
The force also said three other people, two men and a woman, were arrested from the same address on suspicion of assisting an offender.
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said: “It’s utterly shocking that a friends’ reunion should end so brutally.”
He said detectives were working to establish what led to the “apparently random attacks”, adding there was no suggestion of a racial, gang-related or homophobic motive.
The force declared a major incident after eight victims were stabbed during a rampage spanning some 90 minutes in the city centre in the early hours of Sunday.
Three people remain in hospital with critical injuries, including a man who was stabbed in Livery Street, and a woman who was knifed in Hurst Street.
Four others, three men and a woman, were also injured.
Police launched a massive manhunt for a sole male attacker on Sunday and released CCTV footage of a man they said was wanted on suspicion of murder.
But the force is also facing criticism of its response to the attacks, including why the attacker was allowed to wander the city for as long as he did.
West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner David Jamieson told Times Radio there would be an examination of police performance following the stabbings.
Asked whether it seemed extraordinary that an attacker could go on a rampage for two hours in Britain’s second city, he said: “It does, and that is a question I will be asking once a person is in custody, then we need to reflect on the whole incident.
“What we want to know, the police will look at this closely, we want to know that, if something similar happened again, how we avoid it if we can.
“Yes, there will be questions asked, there will be, if you like, debriefings on the whole thing and if necessary we will have to look at any different approach we take to policing.
“Everything will be done, there will be a thorough investigation, and we will look for any lessons that need to be learned, we will learn those lessons.
“But as I’ve seen up to now the police have acted very swiftly and very professionally.”
Officers said they received the first call to Constitution Hill, north of the city centre, just after 12.30am, where a man had received a superficial injury.
This was followed by a further call 20 minutes later to nearby Livery Street, next to Snow Hill railway station. A 19-year-old man was critically injured and a woman was also injured.
An hour later, at 1.50am, officers were called to Irving Street, to the south of the city centre, where a man died and another man suffered serious injuries.
Ten minutes later police were called to Hurst Street, in the heart of the city’s Gay Village quarter, where a 32-year-old woman was seriously injured and two men received lesser injuries.
The force’s chief constable, Mr Thompson, took the unusual step of issuing a formal statement on Monday, rebutting claims the police had acted too slowly in responding on the night and issuing CCTV of the suspect.
He said: “Sadly I regret others have sought to express opinions on the police response and the approach of the investigation to releasing media images or the motivation for this.
“There is always a time and place to review the actions of an accountable police service.
“That should take place in the context of the facts, which commentators clearly do not know.”
He added: “West Midlands Police will continue its investigation and will not be engaging further on discussions on these matters.”
Mr Jamieson also defended the delay in issuing CCTV images of the suspect saying officers “had to find significant quality of pictures to be able to put out so people could give some sort of recognition. So that did take time”.
Following the arrest, Chief Superintendent Graham said: “Officers worked through yesterday and into the early hours of this morning in a bid to trace the man we believe responsible for these terrible crimes.
“We issued CCTV footage of the suspect and had a strong response from the public. I’d like to thank everyone who shared our appeal and who provided information to the investigation.
“One line of inquiry ultimately led us to an address in the Selly Oak area this morning where a man was arrested.
“Clearly this is a crucial development but our investigation continues.”