Grandmother forgives sex attacker who left her to die

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The Independent Online
A GRANDMOTHER who was indecently assaulted then pistol-whipped until she was almost dead forgave her attacker today after he was convicted of attempted murder. Linda Hardy, 44, a devout Christian, said: 'I forgive the man who tried to kill me.'

Mrs Hardy was speaking after a jury unanimously found Joseph Roche, 24, guilty of indecent assault and attempted murder in last May's attack as she walked her dogs near her home in Chipperfield, Hertfordshire. Luton Crown Court was told that unemployed Roche, who also lived in Chipperfield, pistol-whipped Mrs Hardy and told the regular churchgoer: 'Let Jesus save you'.

Graham Parkins QC, for the prosecution, said Roche pounced as Mrs Hardy walked her two dogs on the village common. He put a pistol to her head and molested her. When Mrs Hardy fought back, he launched a 'frenzied and brutal attack'.

She was left in undergrowth choking to death on her own blood and was only saved when a friend stumbled upon her.

Mrs Hardy said last night: 'I bear him no malice and I have forgiven him . . . As a Christian I have to follow the Lord's example when he said, 'Father, forgive them'.

'I believe it was my faith which saved me that day and I have never lost my faith. If anything it has made me stronger because it was a spiritual experience.'

She added: 'I pray for Mr Roche and I have prayed for his family. I do not want retribution, I want him to receive some help.'

Mrs Hardy said her family rallied around her and she received support from church- goers. She said these were helping to ease the mental scars left by the ferocious attack.

Roche looked stunned at the verdicts. He had claimed he was six miles away at the time of the attack.

His mother, Julie, collapsed sobbing and screamed: 'I don't believe it, the real attacker is still out there.' His father, Peter Roche, shouted, 'you must be crazy', at the jury. Roche's 18-year-old girlfriend Clare Bryant, mother of his five-month-old daughter Hayley, left the court in tears.

The judge, Mr Justice Mitchell, adjourned sentence pending social reports. Roche will be sentenced at St Albans Crown Court in two weeks.