Widow tells of her devastation over knife death riddle

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A road worker stabbed to death while apparently attempting a sexual assault on an Avon saleswoman at her home was named yesterday by the victim, who is recovering from surgery.

David Stuchbery, 49, died from a wound to his chest after a struggle with the wife of a bank manager at her home in the village of Densole, near Folkestone, Kent, on Tuesday.

Mr Stuchbery's widow, Linda, a primary-school headmistress, said he was "a marvellous father" and insisted he had been acting "out of character". Police disclosed yesterday that the knife belonged to Mr Stuchbery, who lived near the woman and was known by her.

Fighting for her life, she apparently turned her attacker's knife on him. Minutes earlier Mr Stuchbery had tried to get into another woman's house but she slammed the door. At this stage, police believe, Mr Stuchbery visited the woman's home to discuss buying cosmetics when a struggle took place, in which the bank manager's wife turned the knife on her alleged assailant. It is not known whether the 34-year-old woman, who had surgery for cuts to her hands, was sexually assaulted.

Standing in the doorway of her family's bungalow yesterday, Mrs Stuchbery said in a statement: "I and my family are totally devastated by yesterday's events. We feel extremely concerned for the other family involved and wish to express our deepest sympathy. I am unsure as to what happened yesterday but the police are conducting a thorough investigation, which will reveal the truth. David was a very good husband and a marvellous father. Whatever has happened is really totally out of character."

The injured woman, who has young sons, gave police brief details of the incident. She is believed to have also suffered cuts to her face and arms. Detective Chief Inspector Chris Sparks said: "It is believed that the man was invited into the house. Inside the address, there was a violent struggle. Both parties had a number of injuries inflicted by a knife. We need to try and establish exactly what happened inside that house."

He said the woman was not under arrest. Her husband is believed to be by her bedside. Detectives are not due to talk to her until today. The detective said there were signs of a struggle in the house, with broken furniture and crockery in the hallway of her home.

One of Mr Stuchbery's neighbours said she told police a man carrying a heavy plastic bag had called at her house about half-an-hour before the attack took place. "I opened my window and he asked me if my husband was at home. I said 'not at the moment'. My dogs started to bark and he left, as I would not open the door. Thank God I didn't know him, or I might have let him in - it could have been me who was attacked."

Other neighbours described Mr Stuchbery as a private man.

One elderly resident of the cul-de-sac in which he lived said: "You couldn't wish for a nicer family. He wouldn't say boo to a goose, he was such a quiet fellow and seemed so reserved. It's a terrible tragedy."

Christine Reeve, who used to do the same Avon round as the injured mother, said she had delivered goods to the Stuchbery family. "He was one of my customers, his wife bought deodorants and things for him," she added.

Another neighbour said: "This is a friendly little community, we send each other Christmas cards and we are all shocked."

Sue Mansfield, a part-time care assistant, said she would start a petition in the village if the woman was charged by police following the incident.