Sword attack man 'had studied book on anatomy'

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Indy Politics

The man who allegedly injured Nigel Jones MP and murdered his assistant with a Samurai sword studied a medical textbook on anatomy before the attack, magistrates in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, were told yesterday.

Robert Ashman, 49, read Gray's Anatomy at his parents home before going to the Cheltenham MPs surgery armed with the sword, which his father had acquired in Vietnam and which was normally left in an umbrella stand.

Mr Ashman is charged with murdering Andrew Pennington and attempting to murder Mr Jones at the Liberal Democrat constituency office on 28 January. Sitting in the dock, he took notes as Dennis Scully, for the prosecution, detailed the allegations against him.

Mr Scully told the court that after Mr Ashman had arrived at the Liberal Democrat office, Mr Pennington, invited him into the interview to room to discuss a legal row Mr Ashman was having over the repossession of his former home.

Mr Ashman began to ramble, and Mr Jones and Mr Pennington appealed for calm. Instead, Mr Ashman opened his coat, drew the sword, said: "I'll tell you what I am going to do," and then attacked. He struck at Mr Jones, who deflected a blow from the sword and fell back on to a sofa with Mr Ashman on top of him, Mr Scully said.

In a statement read to the court, Mr Jones said: "I am convinced Mr Ashman intended to kill me. I believe Mr Ashman thought he had stuck the sword in and was pulling it around to inflict more damage. I would have been frightened for my life had I had time."

Mr Ashman had a "grim and determined look in his eyes" as he drew back his coat and pulled the sword. "I immediately stood up and said something like "oh no Rob". I can recall him sort of groaning "yes, yes". I saw clearly his eyes were bulging."

Mr Jones said he believed Mr Ashman had visited his surgery between 50 and 100 times. "During all my meetings with Mr Ashman I would say I found him smart, articulate, rational and confident. I never experienced seeing him losing his temper."

Mr Jones received 50 to 60 stitches for cuts to his hands. A tendon in one finger was damaged and he lost the top of the little finger of his right hand as he tried to wrestle the sword free.

In a statement read to the court by Mr Scully, Mr Ashman's father, Geoffrey, said: "Rob sat down looking at a book called Gray's Anatomy in relation to a medical complaint I had told him about."