Suspended jail term for Seles attacker

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THE MAN who stabbed tennis player Monica Seles in revenge for her success against Steffi Graf, walked free yesterday after a 'very open' admission of his crime.

Gunther Parche, 39, an unemployed metalworker from Thuringia in eastern Germany, was given a two-year suspended sentence by the Hamburg court, partly because of the 'absolutely credible' nature of his admission. Parche, whose room was wallpapered with pictures of Graf, described her as 'a dream creature, with eyes that sparkle like diamonds, and hair that shines like silk'.

He said: 'I couldn't bear the fact that Monica Seles had displaced her from the number one spot.' When Graf lost to Seles in 1990, it had been an 'earthquake'.

Parche had previously checked out the scene of the attack, at a tournament in Hamburg in April. A witness said that Parche attacked 'very quickly' and went for Seles's head. Doctors said at the time that the five-inch knife only just missed her lungs. Parche said, however, that he had not intended to kill Seles. He was charged with causing serious bodily harm, not with attempted murder, as originally suggested.

The judge complained about 'outrageous press reports', which meant that the accused had already 'partly been punished'. The judge even appeared to blame the media for devoting so much space to writing about Graf, thus bringing her into Parche's 'little world', in which he had previously been 'contented'.

A psychiatrist's report described Parche as having an 'abnormal personality', which was unlikely to change; but the psychiatrist argued that the chance of Parche repeating such a crime was 'relatively small'.

Seles' lawyer, Gerhard Strate, said yesterday that an appeal against the light sentence was being considered.