Hero OAP stops knifeman

By Danielle Nuttall and Katy EvansA CRAZED knifeman tried to abduct a woman after dousing her in petrol – but was stopped by a pensioner who attacked him with a walking stick.

By Danielle Nuttall and Katy Evans

A CRAZED knifeman tried to abduct a woman after dousing her in petrol – but was stopped by a pensioner who attacked him with a walking stick.

Sarah Thornton was being dragged from her home by Kevin McCarthy, whom she had met only months before through a dating agency.

But he was stopped in his tracks when 78-year-old pensioner Aubrey Woods – nicknamed Titch – saw the commotion and attacked McCarthy with his walking stick, allowing Miss Thornton to run back to her house.

It later emerged McCarthy had written a letter to a friend claiming he and Miss Thornton had agreed a suicide pact.

McCarthy, 46, of Brandeston Road, Earl Soham, appeared at Ipswich Crown Court yesterday and pleaded guilty to attempted kidnap, wounding and affray on September 22 last year.

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A charge of attempted murder had been denied by McCarthy and was ordered to remain on file. He will be sentenced in six weeks' time.

The court heard Miss Thornton, a graphic designer from Stowupland, had met McCarthy through a singles agency early last year and the pair had been on a couple of dates together.

From the outset, she thought McCarthy was “intense” and when she learned he was in financial difficulties and in debt, she began to have doubts.

The court was told that when Miss Thornton had arrived home late from work one evening, McCarthy had accused her of having an affair and called her a “bitch” and a “slapper”.

Graham Parkins QC, prosecuting, said Miss Thornton had made up her mind then that he was not the man for her and decided to let him down gently.

He added McCarthy had been in a state of emotional turmoil and over the next few weeks he had watched her home, sent her varied messages and followed her about.

Mr Parkins said McCarthy had called Miss Thornton from Ipswich Hospital on the anniversary of her brother's death, having tried to take his own life. He pleaded with her to take him back and would turn up at her house in tears.

The court heard Miss Thornton had complained to the police and McCarthy had been visited by officers at his home and given a verbal harassment warning. But on September 22 last year he turned up at her home again.

“He had prepared himself for this visit in the sense he had armed himself with a kitchen knife, taken a piece of rope and had tied one end into a noose and had a spray gun full of petrol. There were inside a carrier bag,” said Mr Parkins.

“He pushed his way into the home, pushed her down on the sofa and threatened her. He said he would torch her if she did not do what she was told. He dragged her out of the house and sprayed her with petrol.

“She fell on her knees at one stage and he started to stab out at her. A very plucky gentleman, a 78-year-old neighbour not in the best of health and fairly diminutive in stature, nicknamed Titch, intervened.

“He had a large walking stick and brought it down several times on to Mr McCarthy's head. This no doubt helped.”

Miss Thornton, who suffered a two-inch wound above her left eye and cuts to her neck, arms and thigh in the attack, was able to run back inside her home and the police were called.

McCarthy was later found with a number of cuts to his wrists and an injury to his head.

Mr Parkins said officers searched his home the following day and found a letter written by McCarthy to his ex-wife, saying Miss Thornton and himself had entered into a suicide pact.

“Nothing was further from the truth. There was never any question of a suicide pact,” he added.

Police interviewed McCarthy on September 23 and he told officers he had not understood why the relationship had ended and he had felt shattered when it had finished.

McCarthy admitted he had followed Miss Thornton on many occasions and said the fact that she had not replied to his messages had “eaten away” at him.

He told police he had not intended to kill Miss Thornton and had only wanted to frighten her with the rope.

Judge John Devaux said he was considering some way of recognising the actions taken by Mr Woods.

Speaking after the hearing, Mr Woods said: “All I was thinking about was her safety – I just did what I thought was right.”

Recalling his heroic deed, he added: “I heard a woman screaming. The man was dragging Sarah out to his motor on the road.

“I got up – I only had my carpet slippers on, but I grabbed my stick from by the front door and ran outside.

“I'm no spring chicken anymore and he was a big chap, but I thought I would have to try to knock him out.

“When I saw that knife I made my mind up quickly not to let him get her in the car. I thought maybe I could knock the knife out of his hand, but I didn't want him to plunge it into me.”

Mr Woods continued: “I struck two blows on the motor and he turned to face me. I ran round behind the car.

“He looked at me and said 'I'll get you next' and I hit him on the head twice with my stick – there was blood running all down his neck.”

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