“I was stabbed 25 times.”

Please note: this is not the speaker in the article. This is just a picture of a sad woman. Photo by Sylvain Courant
Please note: this is not the speaker in the article. This is just a picture of a sad woman. Photo by Sylvain Courant

By Anna Montague*

It was the one-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. I was studying for my history PhD at home, in my basement flat in Hackney, London, and my partner was at work. After lunch I sat down at my desk and was reading a survivor’s account of 9/11 in The Times, when I heard a clattering coming from the front of my building. Somebody had pinched our garden pots a few days earlier. “Maybe it’s the same person,” I thought. I closed my two black Cocker Spaniels, Jessie and Hal, into my study, so that they wouldn’t bark, and went into the hall to find out what was happening outside.

A man’s face appeared through the windows of my front door. He was peering in. I felt a surge of outrage and thought “how dare you look in my home?” I opened the door to tell this person to eff off, but at first I couldn’t see anyone. Then he appeared from behind the door. He was in his late twenties, hair shaved close to his head, scruffy and wild-eyed, with scabby pale skin like a crackhead. Before I had time to react, he started through the door.

“What the f*** do you think you’re doing?” I shouted.

That’s when he punched me in the chest. So I grabbed him. I knew it wasn’t wise to fight, but I thought he was coming in to steal my stuff, and I absolutely couldn’t just let him. We fought in the narrow hallway, locked in a kind of embrace, me trying to push him out of the door and him trying to push his way in. He was reigning blows on me.

Then I saw the knife and realised that I wasn’t being punched, I was being stabbed – over and over again. I didn’t feel pain, just a tremendous pressure with each blow to my thigh, my back, my chest, my neck, my skull. It seemed to go on for a very long time. I thought, “I wonder when I will die.”

He left me lying on the ground, stepped over my body and had a look around my flat. Then he went, leaving the front door open behind him. I was able to close it and stagger to the phone, which was in the hallway, and dial 999. I was gurgling from the blood in my lungs. After I spoke to someone, I called again, unable to remember what I had just done. I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t put the moments together. When I was convinced someone was on their way, I crawled to the kitchen and lay there on my back. I felt no pain, but it was so hard to breathe that I assumed I wasn’t going to make it.

I am told that the ambulance arrived in a few minutes, though it felt like hours. I thought about what it would be like to die, and cried, not for me but for the people who loved me. I was able to open the door for the paramedics, and then I let go of everything that was happening and they bundled me up and drove me away.

Later, when they were stapling up each of my knife wounds, I found out that I had been stabbed 25 times. One of the wounds had narrowly missed my heart. I was very lucky to be alive and in hospital for only two weeks with a punctured lung. Once it was drained, the function returned, and today I have only short scars on my chest and back.

They found him in the end: a few weeks later, somebody on a train from London to Bristol overheard two men talking about a series of robberies one of them had committed. This person phoned the police straight away, so that when the train arrived at Bristol Temple Meads station, they were waiting to arrest him. One of the things this man had stolen was a decorative, Turkish knife with a short blade which about matched my wounds. I must have inflicted some damage in the fight, because the forensics were able to prove he was my attacker from a spot of his blood on my trousers.

There was also a lot of blood in the study which wasn’t mine or his; it turned out to be from one of my dogs. I didn’t realise at the time, but he stabbed her too. It’s funny, that’s the bit that triggers me getting upset, when I think about my dog Jessie being stabbed.

When I finally saw him again at the Old Bailey, over two years after the attack, he looked much younger than I remembered, and vulnerable. At first it was upsetting to be where he could look at me; that felt like a new violation. But it was better to realise he wasn’t the threatening figure that loomed large in my hallway. It helped me learn to let it go.

He was cleared of attempted murder but convicted of causing grievous bodily harm with intent, a string of other burglaries and handling stolen goods. He was sentenced to eight years, which, if he behaved himself meant he was probably going to serve half of that – four years. I thought to myself, “that’s not very much, but at least he’s been convicted”. I wasn’t going to let myself go through the pain of being angry about it.

These days I’m embarrassed when it comes up in conversation. I’m a university lecturer now and my students often Google me and ask about “the horrible thing”. I tend to giggle and joke that I’m a have-a-go-hero. That’s the only way I can deal with it. Maybe I did the wrong thing, standing up to him, but the alternative was too awful.

As told to Helena Blackstone.

*name changed to disguise identity


Darling of Westminster dies

The death of Sheila Gunn, a much-loved political journalism lecturer for 14 years at City, has prompted handwritten letters from Sir John Major and David Cameron.

Gunn was previously John Major’s press secretary from 1995 until his defeat in the 1997 general election. Before that she was a political correspondent with The Times for 15 years.

In a letter to Gunn’s son, Ben Beardall, Sir Major wrote: “I greatly valued all she did – and the slightly shy, but charming way she did it.

“She was an attractive and able personality whom I will always remember with affection and respect.”

Cameron wrote to Beardall in a letter passed on to XCIty, saying: “Sheila was so loved and admired across the Conservative Party, and indeed, the whole political spectrum.”

Joy Johnson, whose former career as a political journalist and head of communications for the Labour party mirrored Gunn’s taught alongside her on City’s Public Administration module.

She said: “We became a bit of a double act – when we delivered levtures together we would interrupt each other – we had that kind of repartee.”

Colin Brown, the political journalist who wrote a chapter in Gunn’s book So You Want to be a Political Journalist?, remembered how she kept a sunny attitude despite being on “mission impossible” during Sir Major’s ailing 1997 election campaign.

Pictures emerged of the then Prime Minister in a McLaren Formula One car, accompanied by stories about the wheels coming off his campaign wagon and claims that a cameraman tried to position Sir Major under a shop sign that read “S.Lease”.

Brown was part of the media pack following the campaign, and remembers how she coped throughout. “She sailed through it smiling, and telling us [journalists] we were ‘very naughty’,” he said.

Sam Macrory, a student of Gunn’s in 2011 who also contributed a chapter to her book, said: “She could tell us what it was like on the front line as a lobby journalist in Westminster and at the heart of a general election.

“She was wonderfully indiscreet with her tales of her time in politics. She couldn’t help but tell us bits and pieces that we’d never have known otherwise.

She brought people into her confidence and they enjoyed her company. That’s probably how she got her stories.”

Barely two months after the memorial, her ex-husband Mike Beardall, a former regional editor who helped launch the Mail on Sunday, died aged 62. They were married for 14 years.

Sheila Gunn, MBE, journalist, press adviser and university lecturer, was born on August 29, 1948. She died of a brain haemorrhage on October 17, 2014, aged 66.

Originally published by XCity magazine.

Parties’ pledges on GP numbers ‘only achievable by 2045’

An RCGP analysis has found it will take 30 years for Labour and UKIP to increase the number of GPs by 8,000 as promised in their manifestos if current trends continue.

A pre-election statement from the college also warns that the Conservatives’ pledge for 5,000 new GPs will take 20 years unless an emergency package of measures is introduced.

Alongside this analysis, the college has published an opinion poll of 1,000 people carried out with ComRes, which found that almost nine in ten patients cite protecting GP services as a high priority for political parties ahead of the election.

It also found that over half of them anticipate having to wait longer for GP appointments over the next two years and only 4% believe waiting times will get shorter.

The analysis by the college said: ‘If current trends continue, patients will have to wait until 2045 for the 8,000 extra GPs promised by Labour and UKIP in their manifestos; and until 2034 to realise the 5000 more family doctors proposed at the Conservative Party conference.’

Commenting on the figures, RCGP honorary secretary Professor Nigel Mathers said: ‘While both the numerical targets announced by the parties are achievable, both a Labour-led or a Conservative-led government would need to introduce an emergency package of measures, immediately after the election, otherwise the future government would risk missing its targets by many, many years.

‘If the new government – of whichever colour – misses its GP workforce target, then millions of patients will continue to have to wait more than a week to see their GP every year, and increasing numbers of family doctors will feel it is more and more difficult to deliver excellent patient care.’

A survey by Pulse last week revealed that one in ten GP partner positions are currently vacant, an increase of 50% from last year.

This was originally published by Pulse.

Northern Ireland appoints new health minister

The Democratic Unionist Party’s Simon Hamilton has been appointed as health, social services and public safety minister for Northern Ireland.

This follows the resignation of Jim Wells last month after he made comments linking child abuse to same-sex relationships.

Speaking on his first day as minister, Hamilton, who had been Northern Ireland’s finance minister, said: ‘I can assure the public that despite the budget and resource challenges I face, I will continue to strive for excellence in the care we provide. There will be tough decisions ahead, but I will not shy away from doing what’s right.

‘I am committed to continuing with the transformation agenda including the ‘Transforming Your Care’ vision for the future model of health and social care delivery. This will ensure services are structured and delivered in a safe and sustainable manner, making best use of all resources available to us.’

Former shadow health minister to run for Labour leader

Liz Kendall, the shadow health minister, became the first MP to announce she is running to replace Ed Miliband as Labour leader today.

The former minister for care and older people has been an advocate of Labour’s pre-election 10-year plan for the NHS, to offer ‘whole-person care’ through the integration of health and social care services.

Her ministerial role followed her previous job as director of the Ambulance Service Network and the Maternity Alliance.

She is likely to be up against Yvette Cooper, shadow health secretary Andy Burnhamand Chuka Umunna in the running to take over from Ed Miliband

Speaking to about Labour’s pre-election plans for the NHS, Kendall said: ‘It will be a choice between care going backwards, with fragmented services and money wasted under the Tories – or Labour’s plans to fully join-up the NHS and social care so we get the best results for users and the best value.’

Originally published by Pulse.