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Stark lessons from Callin Wilson's brutal crime

The comparisons between the contributions made to our society by Hazem Ahmed Ghreir and the man who brutally murdered him in Belfast city centre, Callin Wilson, are stark.

Mr Ghreir, who was 30 when he died in June, 2017, had taken the massive risk two years earlier of setting out to escape with his brother from the carnage in their native Syria and start a new life thousands of miles away in Ireland.

He settled into the community, took classes to improve his English, passed his driving test and obtained a special forklift licence before finding employment with a city centre restaurant.

When he came out of his workplace in the evening and noticed a figure apparently tampering with a bicycle just off the Dublin Road, he was public spirited enough to intervene immediately.

Wilson, then aged 18 and originally from Scotland, turned round and without hesitation stabbed Mr Ghreir in the heart, before bizarrely twice returning to the scene in a dark side street and, after rifling through his dying victim's pockets, stealing his mobile phone.

There can only be huge concern that a deeply troubled teenager, who had a history of violence and was described at Belfast Crown Court earlier this week as having a `complex' mental disorder, was at the time living unsupervised and without any assistance at accommodation for homeless young people in the north of the city.

The court heard that he had been initially referred to the statutory agencies when still at primary school, later going on to inflict cruelty on animals, engage in inappropriate sexual behaviour, display a fascination with knifes and at one stage try to put a wire around a female teacher's neck.

However, he was still able to wander alone around the city centre at night in circumstances which led directly to the murder of Mr Ghreir, before, in a final disturbing twist, the police who arrested him found over 400 indecent images of children on his laptop.

Wilson was told that he must serve a minimum of nine years in jail, including a concurrent term for the possession of child pornography, before he can be considered for release, which, even allowing for his youth and lack of a previous criminal record, is a sentence which many observers will regard as lenient.

It is essential that the authorities offer a comprehensive response to the points made by Judge Patricia Smyth about the complete absence of the `safety net' which should have protected innocent citizens from Wilson.

There will also be enormous sympathy for the family and friends of Mr Ghreir, who survived a full-blown war in the Middle East only to suffer a cruel and undeserved fate on a deserted Belfast street.

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