Man sentenced to life imprisonment following stabbing in Bury St Edmunds

A 44-year-old man from Bury St Edmunds has been sentenced following a fatal stabbing in the town last summer.

Mourad Belarbi, of Lake Avenue, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court today where he was sentenced to life’ imprisonment. The minimum term is for 10 years and is under section 45 of the Mental Health Act (effectively a hospital order)

He was convicted at a previous crown court appearance on Tuesday, January 16, where he admitted manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility.

Officers were called by a member of the public at around 5.50pm on Thursday, July 20, 2017, to reports that a man had been stabbed at an address in Cumberland Avenue.

When police and ambulance crews arrived at the scene they found 57-year-old Geoffrey Caton on the floor of his flat having sustained multiple stab wounds.

Mourad Belarbi was immediately identified as a suspect by witnesses.

Officers attended Belarbi’s flat in Lake Avenue where was arrested on suspicion of murder at 6.15pm that evening and subsequently charged with the offence two days later.

A Home Office post-mortem examination concluded that Geoffrey Caton died as a result of approximately 65 stab wounds, mostly to his chest.

Belarbi had become acquainted with the victim in the weeks before the stabbing. On the day of the incident another neighbour of Mr Caton’s, who also socialised with both the victim and the suspect, had seen them together in Mr Caton’s flat around half an hour before the attack.

After stabbing Mr Caton, Belarbi then banged on the door of the neighbour’s flat covered in blood and carrying a knife. He began to wash his hands in the sink, before discarding the knife in the bin and leaving soon after. At this point the neighbour raised the alarm with other residents that he believed Mr Caton had been stabbed and the emergency services were called.

Belarbi initially denied killing Mr Caton, despite overwhelming forensic evidence that he had done so.

Two consultant forensic psychiatrists examined Mourad Belarbi in prison and had full access to his mental health records. They concluded that at the time of the attack he was suffering from an abnormality of mental functioning, caused by his diagnosed medical condition of paranoid schizophrenia and so his ability to form a rational judgement and exercise self-control was substantially impaired.

He also used illegal substances and at the time of killing Mr Caton was likely to have been under the influence of drugs.

Belarbi continued to refuse to accept any responsibility for the attack, citing reasons of self-defence and diminished responsibility and refused to plead guilty to the offence of manslaughter based on these mitigating factors and so a murder trial began on Monday, January 15.

However, after the jury had been sworn in and following conversations with the defence counsel, Belarbi decided he would accept the charge of manslaughter and was formally convicted the following day.

Detective Inspector Karl Nightingale, of the Major Investigation Team, said: “Geoffrey Caton tragically died following a violent and frenzied attack by Mourad Belarbi.

“Belarbi was immediately identified as a suspect and all the evidence gathered proved he was responsible for killing Mr Caton.

“Once the psychiatric reports concluded that he was suffering with such an abnormality of mind owing to his paranoid schizophrenia, an alternative charge of manslaughter was offered, which was finally accepted. This decision has prevented Mr Caton’s family from enduring the distress of a full trial.”

Geoffrey Caton’s family said:  “Now that the legal proceedings are over, we would like to make a brief statement.

“Once again, to thank the press for respecting the family’s privacy to this point.

“The case has obviously had a deep impact on the family. It has taken over a year to reach this point. However, we are pleased with the outcome, taking into account the ferocity of the attack on our brother and son, plus any future danger to the public.

“We also reiterate our thanks to the emergency services: the first responders who dealt with the immediate impact; and the police and the family support team, who have kept us fully informed throughout this ordeal.

“We want to thank his friends who tried to help him. Geoff travelled in Europe and America making friends across both continents, yet most importantly found friends who cared for him right here on his doorstep in Suffolk.

“We want to remember our brother Geoff at his best. He wasn’t an angel, but he was a man who cared about other people, who rang his mother every day to chat and check-up on her, despite his own frail health. A man who loved music, meditation, art and photography.”

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