Northern Ireland news

Co Down man accused of trying to kill ex-partner

Jeff Stitt (29) is charged with the attempted murder of his ex-partner

A Co Down man accused of trying to kill his ex-partner - who is in intensive care after suffering a "deep stab wound to her neck" - has been refused bail.

Jeff Stitt (29) is charged with the attempted murder of Zoe Johnston in Newtownards on Saturday.

Stitt, from Blenheim Drive in the town, spoke only at Downpatrick Magistrates Court today to confirm that he understood the single charge.

A detective constable said police were called to a property on Thomas Street just after 12.45pm by an ambulance crew.

“Neighbours and the paramedics were able to point out the defendant as the suspect,” she said, adding that Stitt was arrested at the scene.

Miss Johnston was treated for the stab injury to her neck as well as wounds to her abdomen, left arm and right hand but “deteriorated quite quickly in hospital”.

The officer said she was still in the intensive care unit in a critical condition, had undergone surgery for a perforated windpipe and pierced lung and medics had inserted a pipe “to assist with her breathing”.

She said Miss Johnston told officers the pair had an argument “about her sleeping with his cousin and child contact” when Stitt allegedly stabbed her.

A neighbour, who Stitt had gone to seeking help, gave a statement that he told them “he stabbed her because she was using the child as a weapon”.

Their one-year-old child was said to have been asleep in the living room at the time.

Stitt told police they had been arguing in the kitchen and Miss Johnston was sitting at the table while he stood beside the sink and she had a “clenched fist”.

“The next thing that he remembers is his arm moving and the next thing, she was lying on the ground with a swollen face,” the officer told the court, adding that Stitt “doesn’t recall anything in his hand or what happened”.

A search of the kitchen uncovered a 6” vegetable paring knife “on the floor with blood on it”.

The officer said police objections to bail included a fear that Stitt could interfere with witnesses as they are known to him as well as concern for the defendant himself, after he “mentioned suicidal thoughts and self-harm” while in custody.

Under cross-examination from a defence solicitor, the detective agreed that Stitt had used his phone to call an ambulance, had sought help from two neighbours and administered first aid in “attempting to keep this girl alive”.

The lawyer also said there was a proposed bail address with a sister in Blackpool.

However, District Judge Amanda Brady said she was refusing bail because “if released the fear that he may interfere with witnesses is well founded”.

Stitt was remanded into custody and will appear again via videolink on February 2.

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