CHURCH ATTACK: Forty pints of blood to save slash victim

Man whose face was slashed in half among churchgoers still in hospital being treated for horrific wounds

A MAN whose face was slashed in a sword attack on Sunday morning had more than 40 pints of blood transfused as surgeons battled to save his life.

Last night Paul Chilton, 50, was being treated in intensive care after his face and jaw were sliced and two fingers severed by an attacker who burst into the middle of Sunday mass at St Andrew's church, Thornton Heath. Mr Chilton was expected to remain unconscious for several days.

Surgeons said Mr Chilton, the most severely injured of 11 people taken to hospital, was still in a critical condition after a four-hour operation by four surgeons and a transfusion of 40 pints of blood and fluid.

They said the sword had cut right across his jaw, slicing through his teeth. As he tried to defend himself, the attacker cut through his thumb and index finger, which have been transplanted on to his uninjured left forearm in the hope of sewing them back on later. His elderly mother was at his bedside.

Stephen Ebbs, one of the four surgeons, said: "The blade used must have been extremely sharp and used with great strength. These are the most severe injuries I had ever seen inflicted by one human being on another."

He said the other patients at the Croydon hospital were now stable, though four had suffered grave wounds.

Kambiz Hashemi, an accident and emergency consultant, said: "A samurai sword, if that is what was used, can cut through steel, so I am not surprised at the severity of the injuries."

A woman aged 66 with shoulder lacerations and a 78-year-old woman with facial wounds were in a stable condition yesterday. Two other women, one of them a nun, were being treated for injuries suffered in the stampede as terrified parishioners rushed out of the church.

At St George's hospital, Tooting, a man of 36 was being treated for forearm and tendon injuries, along with another patient.

Gregorio Fernandez, 69, who was recovering with five others at Mayday hospital, Croydon, spoke of the incident. The grandfather, who was slashed across the shoulder and face and had two fingertips severed, said: "I tried to run away but he sliced out at me and hit me on the head and the fingers. There was no pain because the blade was so sharp. I looked down at my fingers and saw the tips of two of them had gone. I started to feel like I was wet, my whole body was soaked in blood. I was completely red. Someone took me outside and laid me on a bench. I can't get the image of that man standing there with that sword out of my head."

Jules Parcou, 73, suffered neck and face wounds. He was released on Sunday night, as was a woman of 70 with a broken wrist and an 80-year- old woman with a badly grazed leg.

The parish priest, Father John O'Toole, visited the injured and their relatives yesterday. "Some are very elderly but they have got great courage," he said. "An elderly lady I spoke to said to me: `I feel so sorry for the man who did this,' which shows you just how generous and selfless they are being."

Yesterday, as the community at St Andrew's church came to terms with the horrific attack, victim-support officers began counselling those who were there.

Ashton Nicholson said: "People are quite distressed around here, partly because this happened in a church. It is sacrilege. The whole community is in shock."

The hospital, which instituted a major-incident procedure the moment it heard what happened, had 20 doctors and numerous staff called in to deal with the patients. So many staff volunteered to help, that many were turned away.

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