Mother's stabbing: police arrest man aged 25

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The Independent Online

Police investigating the stabbing of mother Abigail Witchalls were today questioning a 25-year-old man.

Police investigating the stabbing of mother Abigail Witchalls were today questioning a 25-year-old man.

A spokeswoman for Surrey Police said that the suspect from Surrey was arrested at 10.44pm last night, just more than a week after the attack in a quiet country lane in the village of Little Bookham.

The spokeswoman added: "This is only one line of inquiry and police are continuing to follow up other information."

She said that a 28-year-old man and a 29-year-old woman arrested last week had now been eliminated from inquiries.

Mrs Witchalls, 26, was stabbed in the neck and left paralysed and near death last Wednesday. She had been returning from a mother and toddler group with her 21-month-old son Joseph.

She relayed to officers through blinks, expressions and mouthed words how the stranger grabbed her by the hair, pulled her to the ground and stabbed her in the back of the neck.

Mrs Witchalls, whose spine was damaged in the attack, told detectives she first saw her attacker in a blue, five-door "older style" estate car on a lane in the village.

Based on her account, police say Mrs Witchalls became nervous, trying to run away, when their eyes met as he drove past.

As she started to head for home along the track, she saw that the car had been parked and that the man was coming towards her, prompting a dash for safety with Joseph in his buggy.

She reached a gate leading on to another lane but, to her horror, could not open it.

It was then that she heard the man say "You have dropped your purse". She turned to see that he had grabbed Joseph and was holding a knife to his throat.

He summoned her towards him, pulled her into the muddy ground and stabbed her once in the back of the neck, pushing the buggy with Joseph still in it on top of her and running off.

Detectives said yesterday they had received more than 400 calls from the public as officers stood guard outside the hospital where she is being treated.

The high profile of the case gave rise to concerns for her privacy. Surrey Police confirmed last night that officers were posted outside St George's Hospital in Tooting, south London, where she is being cared for.

It emerged at the weekend that Mrs Witchalls was pregnant with her second child when she was attacked, although it has not been revealed whether the unborn child has survived.

While her condition is improving, her father Martin Hollins has said that she faces long-term disability.