George Harrison was seriously injured after being stabbed multiple times by an intruder in his home, Friar Park near Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire.
Michael (Mick) Abram, a mentally ill man born in 1966 in Huyton, Liverpool, had scaled a perimeter wall and walked up the drive to the mock-Gothic mansion. Although security cameras were positioned by the main gates and the back entrance, the boundary fence in parts of the grounds was in a state of such disrepair that it was easy for an intruder to gain access.
At around 3.30am in the morning of 30 December 1999, Abram threw a statue of George and the Dragon through a window to gain access. Harrison's wife Olivia awoke first, initially thinking a chandelier had fallen before realising an intruder was in their house.
We had gone to bed after 2am after watching a film on TV. I was awoken in my bedroom by the loudest crash of glass imaginable. After I roused my husband, I tried to summon help on the telephone while George put on a coat over his pyjamas and went in search of the intruder.
Harrison put on boots and a jacket and ran to the first floor gallery. He saw a man in the kitchen area, and returned to the bedroom to warn his wife. A statement read out during Abrams' trial in November 2000 recounted his movements.
I retreated hurriedly to the bedroom, shouting at my wife, 'Someone is in the house.' My wife was saying, 'Stay in the room,' but I decided to look again... I noticed the intruder again. As I looked down to the room below me, I saw a person run from the kitchen. He stopped in the centre of the room and looked towards me. He started shouting and screaming. He was hysterical and frightening. He said words to the effect of, 'You get down here, you know what it is.' I could see a knife in one hand and the spear from part of the statue in the other.
I decided to shout back at him, to confuse and distract him. I shouted, 'Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna.' He rushed towards me. I attempted to get into a room, but couldn't release the key from the door. I made the split-second decision to tackle this man as I had it in mind that once he passed me, both my wife and mother-in-law would be vulnerable. Armed only with the element of surprise, I ran at him.
My first thought was to grab the knife and knock him off balance. He thrust the knife at me. I was fending off the blows with my hands and arms. He was stabbing down towards my upper body.
I was aware of my wife approaching and striking him about the head with a brass poker. It appeared to have little effect. He stood up and chased my wife.
I feared greatly for her safety and hauled myself up to tackle him. I placed my hands around the blade. He again got the better of me and got on top of me. I felt exhausted and could feel the strength draining from me. My arms dropped to my sides and I vividly remember a deliberate thrust of the knife down into my chest. I could feel blood entering my lungs. I could feel my chest deflate. I felt blood in my mouth and air exhale from my chest. I believed I had been fatally stabbed.
I was left with serious wounds and breathing difficulties. This person has punched and kicked me in all areas of my body. I have no doubts that this person had the intention of killing me and my wife. There were times I believed I was dying.
Olivia Harrison appeared in court during the trial, and recalled the attack in vivid detail.
They were jabbing at each other, but my husband was just being backed up and backed up. He was trying to grab the man's wrists. I saw my husband looking very pale. He was staring at me in a very bizarre manner. I have never seen him look that way. I just raised my hand and hit the man on the back of the head as hard as I could.
The next thing I knew, I was knocked backwards. The man was up against the wall and I was on my hands and knees at his feet. I reached up and tried to grab his testicles, but I just felt a lot of fabric. I ran from the room and that's when he came after me. I felt Abram's hands on the back of my neck. Seconds later, the two of us fell to the floor as George jumped on Abram's back. I landed on cushions used for meditation and crawled away. The men carried on fighting.
There was blood on the walls, blood on the carpet. This was the moment I realised we were going to be murdered, that this man was succeeding in murdering us and there was no one else there to help. I turned around and grabbed a lamp, tore the shade off and brought it down on the man's head. I struck the intruder as hard as I could, as many times as I could.
I heard my husband saying, 'I've got the knife. I've got the knife.' Then I saw it lying between them. I hit Abram two or three times. He seemed to slump. I said to him, 'Stop,' because I didn't want to hit him anymore. It wasn't a pleasant experience. He was very bloody, my husband was hurt and I was exhausted. My husband said, 'Don't stop, hit him harder.' George was very weak and tried to throw the knife across the room but as he raised his arm, it fell behind him on to a cushion.
I then found myself in a tug-of-war with Abram, each of us pulling on the flex. It was then that Abram grabbed the flex of the lamp and began menacingly wrapping the cord around his hands. I thought he was going to strangle me. He whipped me with the cord on my head. Eventually I flung the lamp at him and ran out of the room. I had a big gash in my head and numerous bruises on my legs ... My husband was fading away. I had to leave my husband there because I couldn't do any more. As I reached the last section of the stairs, I realised he wasn't following me anymore. I thought he'd gone back to inflict more harm on my husband.
The attack ended when two unarmed police officers arrived at Friar Park at approximately 3:45am. They arrested Abram and confiscated his knife. He was taken to the nearby Henley police station, but was moved for a time to Oxford's John Radcliffe Hospital for treatment to his own injuries.
Two ambulances arrived within fifteen minutes and four paramedics spent twenty minutes treating George's stab wounds and trying to stem the flow of blood.
Chief executive, Royal Berkshire Hospital
Although the attack was widely reported in the media, its seriousness was purposefully underplayed by Harrison's family and friends. He was quoted as saying "He wasn't a burglar and he certainly wasn't auditioning for the Traveling Wilburys," but accounts from those close to him revealed the extent of his injuries.
I spoke to Ringo about a month after it happened and he told me exactly what went on, and it was horrific. George was stabbed about 40 times. It happened outside his bedroom on the landing. He would have been dead if he'd been lying in bed, he wouldn't have been able to fight. The papers did say that one wound punctured his lung, but a lot of the others were just as horrific. The man was slashing him everywhere. George's wife hit him again and again on the head with this brass lamp, but he just wouldn't stop. There was blood everywhere.
You Never Give Me Your Money, Peter Doggett
Also on this day...
- 1966: Mixing, recording: When I’m Sixty-Four, Penny Lane
- 1964: Live: Another Beatles Christmas Show
- 1963: Live: The Beatles’ Christmas Show
- 1962: Live: Star-Club, Hamburg
- 1961: Live: Cavern Club, Liverpool (evening)
Want more? Visit the Beatles history section.