Man jailed for stabbing north Belfast cousins

The scene on the Limestone Road in north Belfast after the attack in October 2015

A 40-year-old man who stabbed two cousins in an early-morning knife attack at a block of flats in north Belfast has been sentenced to eight and a half years in prison.

John James Bell was arrested outside the flats on the Limestone Road brandishing two blood-stained knives, and threatening to kill three officers as he was being detained.

Initially facing two charges of attempted murder, Bell admitted two counts of maliciously and unlawfully wounding the cousins with intent to cause them grievous bodily harm.

While one of the victims was stabbed five times in the upper body, the other victim sustained very serious wounds which injured his internal organs. He was rushed to hospital where at one point he received 24 units of blood. He also sustained a laceration to his kidney and lung, and had to have his spleen removed.

Sending Bell to jail, Judge David McFarland said the more seriously injured man was "lucky to survive the incident" and praised the medical staff who saved his life.

Bell, from Broom Park in Dunmurry, was told he will serve half his sentence in prison, with the remainder on licence when he is released from custody.

Belfast Crown Court heard the double stabbing occurred at around 6.30am on October 19, 2015. Bell - who at the time lived in the same block of flats as one of his victims - had been drinking with the cousins and had called police to tell them two men tried to stab him so he stabbed them back.

Telling Judge McFarland that the Crown rejected any claims that Bell was acting in self-defence, Prosecuting barrister Peter Magill said the defendant had 52 previous convictions on his criminal record.

Gavan Duffy QC, acting for Bell, spoke of his client's "very difficult childhood", which he said contributed to Bell misusing both drink and drugs, including heroin.

The barrister said that prior to the incident, all three men had taken "a large quantity of cocaine".

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