Abigail case closed after police blame drifter

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The Independent Online

The hunt for the man who stabbed Abigail Witchalls and left her for dead has been closed following the discovery of new evidence against the prime suspect, who later killed himself.

Richard Cazaly, 23, would have been charged with attacking the young mother if he had not committed suicide days after the attack, the Crown Prosecution Service said yesterday. Cazaly told his girlfriend he feared there was "a monster" inside him and left a suicide note saying: "I don't remember what happened but I'm scared I did it."

But despite the wealth of circumstantial evidence against the drifter and drug user, the police were unable to find DNA linking him to the crime, there were no witnesses to the attack, the knife used has never been found, and Ms Witchalls failed to identify him. Detectives also found no evidence of previous violent behaviour by the suspect.

But Surrey Police said yesterday they were confident Cazaly was the man who stabbed the young mother and left her partly paralysed in the village of Little Bookham in April. Cazaly drove to Scotland and died after an overdose of paracetamol days after the attack near his home. The evidence against him included the discovery that he was a long-time abuser of drugs and had drunk a bottle of vodka in the woods where Ms Witchalls was attacked that day.

Ms Witchalls, who was pregnant at the time of the attack, was found slumped in a lane after being stabbed in the back of the neck with her 21-month-old son Joseph by her side. Although severely disabled with a spine injury, Ms Witchalls has recovered some feeling and last week left hospital for the second time - following the birth of her second son Dominic.

While Cazaly was not picked out by Ms Witchalls in a photo-identity parade, his car was singled out in photographs. Ms Witchalls told police she had seen her attacker driving along the lane in a blue car - Cazaly drove a dark blue Volvo 440 - and began to try to escape before being attacked.

Police said yesterday that they believe Cazaly had had to deflate his tyres on the afternoon of the attack, after being stuck in mud in the woods where he regularly went hunting. Casts of tyre tracks found at the scene of the attack show evidence that the tyres were deflated.

Although Cazaly claimed he was in bed sick on the day of the attack, there is evidence he was in the woods where Ms Witchalls was stabbed. While a bag of knives used by the suspect was recovered, a distinctive dagger-style weapon has never been found.

Six weeks after the attack a specially trained dog picked up Cazaly's scent near the scene of the attack and followed it directly to the spot where he had left his car that afternoon.

Police also revealed that Cazaly told his girlfriend, Vanessa McKenzie, he had been hunting in the area where Ms Witchalls was attacked. He saidhe had "skulled" a bottle of vodka and could not remember what he had done. He asked her: "How do you know if you're crazy? Crazy people don't know if they're crazy."

He then urged her to go home to her mother in Australia which she later did on an emergency ticket. In a subsequent phone call, Ms McKenzie again asked Cazaly if he had attacked Ms Witchalls and he told her: "I know I didn't do it but maybe there's a monster inside of me. How do you know if there isn't a monster inside of me?" Assistant Chief Constable Mark Rowley said: "The most likely explanationis that he became psychotic and violent as a result of this long-term abuse of a cocktail of drugs together with the alcohol he was known to have consumed that day."

It also emerged yesterday that Ms Witchalls is soon to receive an interim payment of £250,000 from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

'I don't remember, I'm scared I did it'

Police have released a suicide note by Richard Cazaly, addressed to his Australian girlfriend Vanessa McKenzie, in which he appeared to admit his guilt.

"To my dearest Nessa. I am so, so sorry. I guess there is two of me. I am very scared but it will all be over soon and everybody will be better off. I don't remember what happened but I'm scared I did it. You deserve better.

Your mum will look after you. Tell her I'm so sorry for all of this.

All my love always and forever."