In a dramatic turn of events on Thursday, a 20-year-old man was jailed for life as he was about to go on trial for the June 2017 stabbing of Syrian refugee Hazem Ahmed Ghreir.
Belfast Crown Court Judge Patricia Smyth told Callon Wilson “the only sentence I can pass is life imprisonment and that’s the sentence that I do pass”.
Judge Smyth also told the former student of no fixed abode that once she has all the relevant information in his case, she will determine “the minimum term you must serve”, of his life sentence before being considered for release.
In court for Wilson’s guilty plea was 30-year-old Mr Chreir’s brother, with whom he had shared a flat in Carrickfergus since fleeing Syria and coming to live in Northern Ireland.
Judge Smyth told him that she wished “to convey my sincere regret regarding the death of your brother and the manner in which he met his death”.
No details surrounding the actual stabbing of Mr Ghreir in Downshire Place in the Dublin road area of the city shortly before 11pm on June 4, 2017. However, at the time police immediately ruled out racism being behind it.
It is understood Wilson stabbed Mr Ghreir once in the chest when confronted by him near the fast-food company where he had worked as a delivery driver.
A jury was sworn earlier this week, and had been listed for a possible start on Thursday when defence QC Patrick Lyttle asked for Wilson to be rearraigned on the first count, that of murder.
Wilson, dressed in jeans and a round-neck jumper, watched by his family and friends, including his mother, simply replied “guilty”.
Two other charges of possessing a knife in a public place and stealing Mr Ghreir’s moble phone, were ‘left on the books’ on application by prosecuting QC Neil Connor.
Wilson, aged 18 at the time of the stabbing, and living in sheltered accommodation in north Belfast at the time, has been remanded back into custody, with the case listed for plea and sentence at the beginning of March once probation and other social enquiry reports are completed.