Samurai sword man found guilty of trying to kill MP

Helen Morgan
Friday 04 April 2003 00:00 BST

A man who attacked his local MP with a samurai sword was found guilty yesterday of attempted murder.

Nigel Jones suffered horrific injuries to his hands and his political aide Andrew Pennington was killed when Robert Ashman went berserk at the Liberal Democrat headquarters in Cheltenham.

Ashman, 52, was convicted by a majority verdict at Bristol Crown Court despite being found unfit to stand trial for murder two years ago. Mrs Justice Heather Hallett sent Ashman back to Broadmoor. He will be remanded there until he is sentenced in 12 weeks.

Ashman had admitted the manslaughter of Mr Pennington on the ground of diminished responsibility. He had also admitted attacking Mr Jones, but had denied trying to murder him. The judge said Ashman could face a hospital order or prison term, adding that "the protection of the public" was foremost in her mind.

Ashman hid his father's wartime sword beneath his clothes and used it in the attack on 28 January 2000. Mr Jones told the jury that Ashman had ceremoniously drawn it and lunged towards him.

The MP, who clutched at the sword with his hands to protect himself, escaped after a struggle. Ashman turned to Mr Pennington, 39, a Gloucestershire county councillor, and stabbed him six times.

Witnesses said Ashman left the building with blood dripping from the sword. He was arrested shortly afterwards.

During the trial the jury was told Ashman was a regular visitor to the MP's weekly surgery, being obsessed with what he saw as his legal rights after losing his job and home.

Ashman told a psychiatrist that on the day of the attack he had been full of anger and went to see Mr Jones to frighten him and find the truth. The psychiatrist said Ashman was suffering from a delusional disorder, known as paranoid psychosis.

The jury also heard that Ashman had a previous conviction against a council worker he attacked in 1993.

Speaking from his Cheltenham home, Mr Jones, 55, said: "It is good that after more than three years my side of the horrible events have been vindicated by a jury and I can try and forget the whole affair. But of course the loss of my friend Andrew Pennington will be with me for ever."

Detective Superintendent Wayne Murdock, who led the investigation, described Ashman as a "very dangerous man". After the verdict, he said: "We've always contended that ... his main target was Nigel Jones. But for the courage of Andrew Pennington he would quite possibly have succeeded."

Mr Pennington was posthumously awarded the George Medal for gallantry for saving Mr Jones' life.

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