04 November 2005

Abigail gets to go home!

Times Online

By Times Online and PA News
4 November 2005

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Abigail Witchalls - click to view

A pregnant mother has left hospital six months after she was left paralysed after being stabbed in the neck in an apparently random attack.

Abigail Witchalls, 26, was pushing her toddler son Joseph in a buggy along a country lane in Little Bookham, Surrey, on April 20 when she was knifed in the neck.

At first doctors feared for her life. She has spent the last five months in the Spinal Cord Injury Centre at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in Stanmore, north London.

Today the hospital said in a statement that she had made "good progress" in rehabilitation. It said: "Abigail is delighted to be returning home after so long.

"She is now able to breathe and speak freely, and has some movement in her right arm so that she is beginning to feed herself.

"Abigail has tetraplegia, which means she is severely disabled and will continue to need ongoing therapy and nursing care. It is expected that her initial stay at home will be temporary as she will soon need to be admitted to a maternity hospital as her pregnancy comes to term."

The statement said Mrs Witchalls’ home has been specially adapted for her and the NHS will provide carers 24 hours a day to support her.

"While her family will all be close at hand to help, her husband Ben and her mother and father are each continuing with their careers," it said.

She has not yet received any criminal injury compensation, the hospital said, and her family has set up a trust fund for additional long-term care expenses, to which donations were welcome.

Mrs Witchalls and her family gave their thanks to hospital staff. She said: "Thank you for your enthusiasm and care.

"Your expertise and competence have encouraged me and given me the confidence to continue to expect improvements."

Mrs Witchalls, a Catholic, has told police she turned to see her attacker holding a knife to her son’s throat as she tried in vain to open a high gate in front of her. With the boy at risk, she walked towards her would-be killer before being stabbed in the neck and left with a 3-inch wound.

Neighbours who heard her screams came running from nearby houses to find her slumped in the mud with Joseph out of his buggy and next to his mother. Her injuries were so serious that the last rites were administered in hospital.

Surrey Police have passed a file containing details of their investigation to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Richard Cazaly, 23, has been treated as a suspect in the case since his apparent suicide from an overdose in Scotland just days after the attack.

Cazaly, from Fleet, Hampshire, had been living in a house on Water Lane, Little Bookham, close to where the attack took place, and had similarities to the description given by the victim.

Although Mrs Witchalls failed to pick him out in a photo identity parade from her hospital bed, Surrey Police believe they have evidence linking Cazaly to the attack.

A hospital spokeswoman said she was discharged last night.

A spokeswoman for Surrey Police said: "Everyone at Surrey Police is delighted to hear that Abigail has now been able to return home.

"She has shown great courage and determination over the past seven months and we all wish her the very best for the future."

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