US airman faces attempted murder charge

A GUEST at a Suffolk hotel was forced to fight for his life when an American serviceman stormed into his bedroom at night and stabbed him 13 times, a court heard.

A GUEST at a Suffolk hotel was forced to fight for his life when an American serviceman stormed into his bedroom at night and stabbed him 13 times, a court heard.

Derek Thrower, 62, thought he was going to die in the “frenzied” knife attack by 27-year-old staff Sergeant Lorrenzo Sanchez, who was a specialist in survival training behind enemy lines.

During the incident, Sanchez repeatedly told Mr Thrower that he was going to kill him and shouted out orders as if he was taking command of a military situation Ipswich Crown Court was told.

At one stage, Mr Thrower, who was bleeding heavily from wounds to his upper body, managed to wrestle the knife away from Sanchez and used it to cut him on the inner thigh.

But having inflicted the wounds, he was amazed when Sanchez had grinned at him and said “that was a good strike man.”

“It was almost as if it were a game and it was as if he was proud of what I had done” Mr Thrower told the court as he gave evidence yesterday.

Most Read

He said during the incident, which lasted about 15 minutes, Sanchez had shouted orders to him about where he should put his hands and had also appeared to be giving orders to shocked hotel staff who had come on the scene.

“He was trying to assume command. His manner was very militaristic” said Mr Thrower. He said he noticed that Sanchez's eyes were glassy and that he repeatedly called him “Paul”.

Mr Thrower recalled shouting to hotel staff “For God's sake, help. This guy has got a knife and is going to kill me.”

Sanchez, who is based at RAF Mildenhall, has denied attempting to murder Mr. Thrower on May 11 this year at the Wherry Hotel in Oulton Broad where they were staying as guests in neighbouring rooms.

Sanchez has also denied a less serious alternative charge of unlawfully wounding Mr Thrower.

Outlining the background to the case, prosecuting council Karim Khalil QC said that in the weeks leading up to the attack Sanchez had suspected that his wife of five years was having an affair.

She had reassured him that this was not the case but Sanchez had discovered the affair was continuing and on May 10 - just hours before the attack on Mr Thrower - told her that their marriage was over.

“It seems likely that the collapse of his marriage and the manner of the collapse played on the mind and heart of this defendant and may be central to explaining his conduct later that day” said Mr Khalil.

On the same day, Sanchez travelled to Lowestoft with two colleagues to prepare for a water survival training course that he was organising the next day.

He and his colleagues had spent the evening drinking in local pubs before returning for further drinks in the bar at the Wherry Hotel.

During the evening one of Sanchez's colleagues had asked to borrow a lock knife from his training kit to cut the ends of some cigars and he kept it on him instead of putting it back in his room.

After Sanchez's colleagues retired to their rooms he had stayed in the bar and pestered a woman guest who was sitting in the bar reading a book - prompting her to complain to hotel staff.

“He didn't take kindly to being rebuffed by this lady” said Mr Khalil.

Shortly afterwards, Sanchez had gone upstairs to the first floor and had “charged” through Mr Thrower's bedroom door.

He pointed out Sanchez to the hotel manager as the person who had damaged his door and had returned to his room to wait while the manager went to get a key to another room for him to move to.

At this point Sanchez had burst into Mr Thrower's room again and began attacking him. Mr Thrower was butted in the head and received a number of blows to his upper body.

During the attack he heard Sanchez say “Paul, I'm going to kill you”. Mr Thrower was taken to hospital where he was found to have thirteen stab wounds to his upper body.

His injuries included a punctured lung, a six centimetre hole in his diaphragm and severed tendon in his left arm.

Sanchez was eventually restrained after being sprayed with CS gas and was taken to hospital where he initially refused medical treatment.

However, whilst at hospital his demeanour suddenly changed and he began asking what happened and what he was doing in hospital. During police interviews, Sanchez said he had no memory of the attack on Mr Thrower.

Mr Kahlil said that after reading witness statements about the attack Sanchez told his psychiatrist that he recognised elements of role play connected with his training work in the descriptions of his behaviour on the night in question.

“He is saying he must have drifted from role play at work into the attack and blames that for what he did” said Mr Khalil. He added: “But for the fight put up by Mr Thrower, the intervention of hotel staff and the treatment he received at hospital, Mr Thrower might not have survived the attack”.

The trial continues.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter