Harrison's attacker cleared of attempted murder after court decides he is insane

By Terri Judd,Jojo Moyes
Thursday 16 November 2000 01:00

A mentally ill drug addict who considered himself the "fifth Beatle" was sent to a secure psychiatric hospital indefinitely after being cleared yesterday of trying to murder George Harrison, the former band's guitarist, and his wife.

A mentally ill drug addict who considered himself the "fifth Beatle" was sent to a secure psychiatric hospital indefinitely after being cleared yesterday of trying to murder George Harrison, the former band's guitarist, and his wife.

Michael Abram, 34, was found not guilty due to insanity of the attempted murder of Harrison and his wife, Olivia, after the jury at Oxford Crown Court was told he was a paranoid schizophrenic who did not know he was doing wrong at the time of the attack.

Mr Justice Astill described the incident as a "horrifying attack" and ordered that Abram be sent to the hospital "without time restriction".

Armed with a knife, an electrical flex, a table lamp and a pole from a broken statue, Abram rampaged through the millionaire's mansion in Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, claiming he was on a "mission from God" to murder Harrison, 57, and his wife on 30 December last year.

The court was told how he stabbed the guitarist at least 10 times before battering him with the table lamp and threatening to kill Mrs Harrison, 52, with the flex. Mrs Harrison is credited with saving her husband's life, hitting Abram over the head with a table lamp.

The jury was told that Abram, who had a long history of mental illness, had become obsessed months before by the idea that the Beatles were witches. He would sit in his bare room on an upturned plant pot, consumed with persecutory delusions, listening to songs by John Lennon, Bob Marley, U2 and the Beatles.

Phillip Joseph, a psychiatrist, said: "It was by a process of elimination that he thought George Harrison was the 'Alien from Hell'. He believed that Harrison possessed him. He thought the Beatles were witches flying on broomsticks from hell." Abram, Dr Joseph said, believed he was the fifth Beatle.

His condition deteriorated after last year's solar eclipse, and Abram set off for Harrison's mansion, where he broke in during the early hours. When the shocked musician shouted "Hare Krishna!" in a bid to confuse his attacker, Abram believed he was being cursed in "the devil's tongue".

Jenny McCarthy, another psychiatrist, told the trial that Abram had been suffering from schizophrenia and other mental illnesses for years but various professionals appeared to have his condition.

Abram's life had been as far removed from Harrison's as was possible, the court was told. A heroin addict, living in a squalid flat on the tenth floor of a near-derelict Liverpool block, he was a sad figure, driven by voices in his head, a figure of fun for local children and a "pest" to their parents.

His psychosis, according to his family, was never taken seriously - until the day it drove him to try to kill one of the most famous men in the world.

The eldest of three children born to Raymond Abram, a labourer, and his wife, Lynda, a factory worker, he grew up with his younger brother and sister in a council house in Stockbridge Village, Liverpool, and attended a local comprehensive. He was described as a "normal, bright lad" who left with three O-levels and some CSEs.

At school he met Jeanette Freeman and within two years their first child was born. Too young to set up home together, the teenagers stayed with their own parents. After a short spell in computers, he moved into telesales, selling advertising space.It was then, his mother said, that he turned to heroin to "ease the pressure".

Abram and Ms Freeman had moved into a flat in Page Moss by 1987. Their second child was born two years later. Abram was, his family said, a devoted father but the relationship was marked by bitter rows and collapsed.

He was admitted to Whiston Hospital in Merseyside for the first time in March 1990 and was diagnosed as psychotic with paranoid delusions. Over the next nine years he was a frequent visitor to the hospital as his drug addiction worsened and his illness took hold.

His mother claimed that "the doctors at Whiston all wrote him off as having 'drug induced psychosis'. They did not really treat him because he was a drug addict and some of them even accused him of being a malingerer." Having lost his job and his family, he moved in 1996 into Woolfall Heights, a tower block in Huyton. He became convinced that a witch lived in the flat and began to develop his obsession with music.

Mrs Abram said: "When Oasis released 'Wonderwall' there was an article in the paper about drugs and alcohol and Michael believed the Gallagher brothers had written that as a letter direct to him."

He became deluged by voices in his head, and was convinced that he was receiving messages from the television and radio. By last summer, he had replaced heroin with a methadone substitute, but his illness had become severe. At times he would sleep on the landing, convinced a "fat lady and a man in black" were inhabiting his flat, or stand naked on the balcony, threatening to throw himself off. His neighbours nicknamed him "sheephead" and "General Custer" because of his long, white hair, and he was often beaten up.

He then began to develop his obsession with the Beatles, initially focussing on Sir Paul McCartney. In October, two months before the attack, Abram first mentioned George Harrison, his mother said. "We were just chatting when he snapped his fingers and said 'I've got it. Paul McCartney's a witch but George Harrison is the boss,'" she said.

Mrs Abram, suspecting her son was suffering from schizophrenia, said she repeatedly pleaded, in vain, with the Whiston Hospital to section her son under the Mental Health Act.

By Christmas - only days before he tried to kill the musician and his wife - he was desperately ill. He disappeared for days on end, and his family was unaware that he had twice travelled to Harrison's home to "case the joint".

On 29 December, after a meal at his mother's home in Stockbridge Village, he borrowed £50 from an uncle and set off again for Henley-on-Thames. As he left his local pub, he told those around him "I've got things to do".

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