Nfld. & Labrador

Topsail stabbing: Nicholas Layman, 19, charged with attempted murder

Nicholas Layman, 19, has been charged over a stabbing at a Newfoundland soccer field that has shocked the country and left a young boy fighting for his life in hospital.

Witnesses say a teenager ran from bleachers and stabbed a boy, believed to be 11

Witnesses said a teenager ran from bleachers and stabbed a boy, believed to be 11 1:45

Nicholas Layman, 19, has been charged over a stabbing at a Newfoundland soccer field that has shocked the country and left a boy fighting for his life in hospital. 

The young man appeared in St. John's provincial court Friday afternoon on charges of aggravated assault and assault with a weapon. Layman was also charged with attempted murder later Friday.  

Layman was sent for a brief psychiatric assessment following his initial court appearance, but a doctor was unable to say whether Layman would be fit to stand trial.

He will spend the next seven days in the Waterford Hospital, a psychiatric hospital in the west end of St. John's. He's due in court again on Oct. 3.

When asked for comment, a member of Layman's family said it was a "very difficult time for us."

Meanwhile, a source close to the victim's family said the boy was sedated, but considered to be in stable condition at hospital in St. John's as of Friday afternoon.

The soccer pitch was still covered with balls and pylons on Friday morning, as the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary scoured for evidence in the case.

Forensics investigators with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were at the soccer pitch in Topsail on Friday, following the stabbing of a young boy at a soccer camp. (CBC)
The boy, believed to be 11, was stabbed in the neck during a skills camp involving several dozen young players at a pitch in the Topsail neighbourhood of Conception Bay South, a suburban town just west of St. John's.

Layman was arrested late Thursday night, a couple of hours after emergency responders rushed to tend to the stabbed boy. An abandoned car that was found on a nearby road was seized and towed away on Thursday night. 

Witnesses told CBC News that a young man from the bleachers had stabbed the boy.

"He fell into my arms, and I just grabbed and held his wound, and put my arm around the back of his head, and lay him down on the field and lay with him, and just applied pressure to his wound," said a soccer father who was on the scene.

CBC News is not identifying the father for privacy reasons.

"I just screamed to some other parents to call 911," he said.

The boy was taken to hospital and had been listed in serious condition.

Sources tell CBC News that police believe the attack was random, and that a mental-health issue may be involved. 

Police Chief Bill Janes said he could not divulge details of how the suspect was taken into custody.

'Disbelief that someone could do that'

Conception Bay South Mayor Ken McDonald said the stabbing has shocked people in his community.

He fell into my arms, and I just grabbed and held his wound, and put my arm around the back of his head and lay him down on the field ... and just applied pressure to his wound. — Parent who assisted boy stabbing in Topsail

"Fear and shock are a couple of words to describe it. To me it, it was a bit of disbelief that someone could do that," said McDonald.

McDonald said counsellors are available to help children, parents and coaches who saw the gruesome scene play out before their eyes.

"I'm sure it's very traumatic. You watch an incident like this happening on a TV show and it kind of gives you the shivers — to be there first-hand and see it happen? It's not going to be easy to put that out of their minds in the very near future," said McDonald.

Janes was visibly shaken as he spoke late Thursday night with reporters at police headquarters.

"This incident can only be described as a terrible tragedy," he said.
The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary secured a soccer pitch in the Topsail area of Conception Bay South after a young boy was stabbed in the neck. (CBC)

The RNC held the pitch overnight as a crime scene, and has brought in forensic specialists to help collect evidence. The pitch was illuminated overnight to help police.

Meanwhile, the C.B.S. Soccer Association said activities at the field and nearby clubhouse have been suspended for now. In a statement, the organization said it was "shocked and saddened by an incident at Topsail Field Thursday evening that sent one of our young players to hospital.”

Counsellors available for children

The English School District said counsellors will be available at neighbourhood schools on Friday to help children deal with the traumatic scene. 

The boy who was stabbed is a student at Holy Family School in neighbouring Paradise. 

Sandy Hounsell, who chairs the school council, described the incident as traumatic and devastating, including to his own son. 

"He was very inquisitive, and asking questions and why such a thing would happen — and that's where the difficulty is in how do you explain that," he said. 

"How do you make an 11-year-old understand why something like this would happen?"