Mystery of attack on Avon Lady

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A widow heard yesterday how her husband died while subjecting a woman to a terrifying attack in her own home. The inquest into the death of David Stuchbery was told how he died from a single stab wound on February 4th, as he attacked Avon saleswoman Wendy Hertz in her own home.

Mrs Hertz, 36, described her horrific ordeal, which left her mentally and physically scarred.

She said that on the morning of February 4th she answered her front door to Stuchbery. Recognising him as a customer of hers, the Avon lady invited him to step inside her house from the cold while she went to get him a catalogue.

But Stuchbery came inside and she saw he was holding a knife; "His eyes grew wide. He was stoney-faced. He raised his left arm across my chest. I could feel his breath on my face. I know the knife was very close to my neck and he was just staring at my face."

"I asked `Why are you doing this?' Slowly and mechanically, he said: `I don't know'," she said.

Mrs Hertz screamed as Stuchbery pushed her head back and tried to kiss her. "He unzipped my jeans and he started to pull them off. It was then I was able to pick up the knife."

Although Mrs Hertz managed to grab the knife, having been cut she could not grip it properly. Her attacker, who had been drinking alcohol, pushed her onto the stairs and shouted: "You're going to get it. You're going to get it."

Mrs Hertz does not recall stabbing Stuchbery. The next thing she remembers is her attacker lying face down in the hallway. Terrified that he would suddenly pounce on her again she reached for a bottle and hit him on his head, before running out of her house to her next-door neighbours.

Police found blood smeared on the walls and the flick-knife, used by Mr Stuchbery's wife to gut fish, lying in the corridor.

Detective Inspector Alan Scott, the investigating officer, said: "On that morning Mr Stuchbery went out with the specific intention of carrying out a serious sexual offence on Mrs Hertz. He knew that if Mrs Hertz had survived she would have had no difficulty in identifying him. It is my opinion that had he not died, he would not have let her survive."

The court heard how Stuchbery, a 49-year-old road sweeper, was shy and found it hard to make friends, but had been happily married to his wife Linda, a primary school Head Mistress. Mrs Stuchbery, her voice trembling, said, "What David did was wholly out of character, very unexpected and very tragic. I cannot offer an explanation. He just seemed to snap."

The coroner recorded a verdict of accidental death.