The man who was killed in a series of stabbings in Birmingham on Sunday has been described as “the light of our life” by his family.
Jacob Billington, 23, from Liverpool, was killed in the city centre attack while out with friends. Another 23-year-old member of the group – who were visiting a friend studying in Birmingham – was seriously injured and remains in hospital.
On Monday West Midlands police confirmed a 27-year-old man had been arrested in the Selly Oak area of the city on suspicion of murder and seven counts of attempted murder.
In a statement, Billington’s family said: “Jacob was the light of our life and we have been devastated by his loss. 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.
“He was a funny, caring and wonderful person who was loved by every single person he met.”
In the early hours of Sunday, a sole male attacker launched a string of knife attacks spanning 90 minutes across the city centre, prompting the police to declare a major incident.
A man and a woman, aged 30 and 22, remain critically injured in hospital. Five other people, aged between 19 and 33, were also injured. They were treated in hospital, with two later being discharged.
West Midlands police had launched a manhunt and released CCTV footage of a man they said was wanted in connection with the incident.
The force said the suspect remained in custody after being arrested at his home address, while three other people – two men and a woman – were arrested at the address on suspicion of assisting an offender.
Following the family’s statement, Birmingham’s police commander, Ch Supt Steve Graham said: “Our thoughts and sympathies are with Jacob’s family and friends after receiving such shocking news, particularly for those who were sharing their night out with him. It’s utterly shocking that a friends’ reunion should end so brutally.
“Equally the families of the other victims have been left devastated by the events of Sunday morning and we are working hard to discover what led to the apparently random attacks. We have no suggestion that the motive was either racial, homophobic or gang-related.”
The force is facing criticism of its response to the attacks, including why the attacker was allowed to wander the city for as long as he did. The Labour MP for Perry Barr, Khalid Mahmood, asked why the suspect had “two hours to run around the city centre” despite the high number of CCTV cameras. “Where was the monitoring? Both the public and police were put at further risk.”
The West Midlands police and crime commissioner, David Jamieson, defended the force, saying they had had to trawl through thousands of hours of CCTV footage. He told Times Radio: “They 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.
“What we had initially in the first few hours was a very broad description of the person, but of course thousands of people in Birmingham look like that, it’s not very helpful putting out that rather broad description, we need to have something more specific.”
A property in the Selly Oak area of the city was raided by police in the early hours of Monday morning. Residents of Natley Grove described being woken at 4am to loud bangs and shouts of “get down”. One told Birmingham Live they had seen a man in his pyjamas brought out in handcuffs.
John Astley, 50, who lived next door to the property, told the Guardian at least three people lived in the end-of-terrace rental. He claimed the landlord lived in New Zealand.
“I don’t know much about the people who live there but I think there are three people,” he said.
Another resident said loud music blared from the house “at all hours” from a bedroom window. She told how it sounded like “a car exploding” when police stormed the property on Monday morning.