Worshippers return to scene of horror attack

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Shocked worshippers today returned to a church for the first service since it became a scene of carnage yesterday, to say prayers for the victims of a crazed sword attacker.

Shocked worshippers today returned to a church for the first service since it became a scene of carnage yesterday, to say prayers for the victims of a crazed sword attacker.

A handful of parishioners heard mass at St Andrew's Roman Catholic Church in Thornton Heath, Surrey just before 8am.

The mass, led by the curate, Father Bill Agley, was a sombre and thoughtful one, with thoughts focused firmly on the 11 parishioners injured when a naked man wielding a 3ft samurai sword ran amok through the congregation during a Sunday service.

Eight of those injured remain in hospital, including a 55-year-old man who was "critical but stable" after receiving severe cuts to his face, neck and hand.

A 26-year-old man was today questioned by police in connection with the incident.

Father John O'Toole, who also presided over this morning's mass, said all the church could offer at the moment was "silence and prayers".

"It was a very quiet mass. At this moment there isn't need for a lot of words. Silence is all we can offer, silence and prayers," he told GMTV.

"With all the tragedy there have also been stories of courage and great caring and goodness on display as well."

Prayers were also said for the alleged attacker and his family.

Father Agley spoke before the service of his shock at what had happened.

"It's something which, as far as I'm aware, is totally unheard of and from that basis alone is totally shocking," he said.

"We have to get back to some semblance of normality, continue with the life of the parish and also to look at how we support the victims and families and the parish community generally.

"We will be getting together some sort of support programme, hopefully within the next day or so," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

Last night two worshippers who battled with the maniac before he was overpowered were hailed as heroes.

Off-duty police officer Tom Tracey, 40, grabbed a church organ pipe, while bank clerk Bob Wright armed himself with a crucifix at the end of a pole, to beat off the naked swordsman.

Pc Tracey, a uniformed response officer with the Metropolitan Police, described the moment he turned and saw the "absolutely wild" attacker slashing indiscriminately at worshippers' heads and faces.

He said: "I looked over and saw a man wielding a sword around. People were rushing past and myself, along with several other male members of the parish, subdued the man just as he was near the altar."

The officer, who was with his younger daughter at the time of the attack, said he had been singing a psalm in the choir when a commotion occurred just before 10.30am.

He said: "Five minutes previously I was singing the psalm and the next thing you're fighting with a sword-wielding assailant. It was one scenario moving to the extreme within a couple of minutes."

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Fitzgerald praised both Pc Tracey, who he said had "acted within the best traditions of the service and with great bravery", and Mr Wright.

He said: "I think the actions of Pc Tracey and those other people must have undoubtedly stopped further injury being caused."

Ambulance staff to arrive first at the church said the scene that awaited them was the worst they had ever come across.

Gary Newton, 36, a paramedic with Croydon ambulance station with 14 years' experience, said he treated one victim who had lost more than five pints (three litres) of blood and his hand had been partially severed to the wrist with the loss of two fingers and a thumb.

Mr Newton told PA News: "They were horrific injuries. He was bleeding heavily and he had been slashed from the mouth and it had gone down right across to the back of the neck."

This morning six people were still at the Mayday Hospital, Croydon. The hospital allowed three others to go home last night after treatment.

Two more victims, a man in his 30s and a woman in her 80s, are being treated at St George's Hospital, Tooting. None were thought to have life-threatening injuries.

The most seriously injured victim - a 55-year-old man - has already undergone a series of operations during which his severed thumb and forefinger were attached to his left forearm in preparation for further operations within the next 24 hours.

People living near the church yesterday named the man being held by police as Eden Strang, who lived in a flat near the church on Brook Road, Thornton Heath. Last night, just a few hours after the attacks, evening Mass was held as scheduled, with the service moved to a nearby Salvation Army hall.

The mood was sombre as more than 80 men, women and children of all ages joined the service taken by priests from St Andrew's.