On this New Year’s Eve eve in 1999, George Harrison and his wife Olivia were attacked in their Oxfordshire home by an intruder.
According to a report from The New York Times, the attack took place at around 3:30 a.m. when a 33-year-old Liverpool man, later identified as Michael Abram, broke a window and entered Friar Park, the Harrisons’ estate. Armed with a large knife, the assailant hit Olivia over the head and repeatedly stabbed the former Beatle, then 56, in the chest.
The Harrisons reportedly managed to fight off their attacker with Olivia hitting him repeatedly with a fireplace poker and a lamp. They were able to detain him while a member of their staff alerted authorities.
The couple were rushed to a nearby hospital where George was treated for a collapsed lung and various stab wounds, and Olivia was doctored for the cuts and bruises she had endured in the struggle with Abram.
The surgeon who operated on the guitarist explained his escape was a narrow one, having sustained stab wounds that barely missed his superior vena cava, a major vein that carries blood throughout the body. “No stab wound to the chest is minor,” the doctor told reporters. “In Mr. Harrison’s case, it is just by chance that it is not particularly serious.” He explained the physical recovery should take only weeks, but added “it may be a bit longer to be mentally fully fit.”
Abram, too, was treated for minor injuries then handed over to the police and charged with attempted murder.
Reports explained officials thought the attack was deliberate. “I am not at all sure this is a burglary that went wrong,” lead investigator Detective Chief Inspector Euan Read explained to reporters outside the Harrisons’ estate.
Abram’s mother, Lynda, was spoken to after her son was identified. She explained to the Liverpool Echo that her son had a history of mental illness and drug addiction, and added his tendency to see things and hear voices in his head.
“He has been running in pubs shouting about the Beatles,” the outlet quoted her as saying. “He hates them and even believes they are witches and takes their lyrics seriously. He started to wear a Walkman to play music to stop the voices in his head.” But, she reportedly added, “He talked about Paul McCartney more than George Harrison.”
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