A woman claiming to be a child refugee is to stand trial for attempting to murder a social worker appointed to oversee her care while she was considered a youth.
Appearing in the dock of Dungannon Crown Court, Fiyori Kesete, now established to be 24, who is accused of attempting to murder after alegedly attacking her female social worker multiple times with a knife.
She was first brought to court last year when it was claimed she was 15, and as a result was remanded to the Juvenile Justice Centre and her name could not be reported.
At that time a detective constable explained Kesete is a refugee who travelled to Northern Ireland by herself in 2021 from Eritrea in East Africa.
Without any parental or responsible adult input, she was assigned support by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust 14+ Team, residing in specialist accommodation in Dungannon.
Prior to the incident she was reported missing seven times including the days running-up to her arrest.
On that occasion, she was located in Belfast by police who alerted her social worker and took her to her accommodation, which had been cleaned and prepared for her return after being missing for several days.
She entered the property with her social worker who went into the kitchen and began unpacking groceries telling her, “I’ve bought you all your favourite things.”
It is alleged Kesete, without warning, “immediately struck the social worker to the back of her head with a knife”.
The alleged victim screamed and was struck again to the head, then once to the neck and twice to the arm.
Police were still outside and contained Kesete while an ambulance arrived and rushed the social worker to hospital where she underwent emergency surgery.
The defendant was arrested and during interview admitted attacking the social worker with the knife but gave no indication as to why.
The court was advised her identity remained unconfirmed and there are five different dates of birth and six variations of her age registered with the Home Office.
She was remanded into youth custody while the case was being fast-tracked toward committal for trial, “because she is a child”.
However, following assessment, Kesete’s correct date of birth was established and earlier this year an emergency application was made to transfer her from youth custody to Hydebank Women’s Prison.
A committal hearing at Dungannon Magistrates’ Court followed where she was asked if she wished to say anything in answer to the charge of attempted murder, and replied, “Just to make things clear – they are saying I tried to murder her, but it was the opposite. It was her who tried to kill me.”
Having been returned for trial, numerous adjournments followed as Kesete refused to engage with lawyers or any support services.
She continues to insist she is a child and was trafficked to Northern Ireland.
However on Thursday she appeared in the dock and again disputed the date of birth held by the court.
After the charge was read to her she replied, “No, I am not guilty.”
Defence lawyers informed the court they wished to seek a number of expert reports and requested an adjournment for several months.
In response, prosecution counsel said while this was understood, the matter should proceed to trial as soon as possible.
Judge Fiona Bagnall remanded her into continuing custody to return on September 7, when a trial date is expected to be fixed.