George and Olivia Harrison were taken to Royal Berkshire Hospital at approximately 5am, and were taken to a side room on the Sidmouth Ward. Security was immediately tightened around the entrances and exits while they were treated for their wounds.
He has been stabbed on the right hand side of the chest, with the blade entering just below his collarbone. The knife narrowly missed a blood vessel connecting the heart and the head. If that had been ruptured, he would have perished within a matter of minutes from internal bleeding. He was extremely lucky. If the knife had gone in more than a centimetre either side, then it could have hit some very dangerous things, such as large blood vessels.
Medical director, Royal Berkshire Hospital
Surgeons battled to save the musician, and part of his partially-collapsed right lung was removed. He was given 12 stitches to the wound, and once his condition stabilised he was transferred to Harefield Hospital in Uxbridge, Middlesex.
Harefield was a leading centre for chest conditions. Harrison was given a private room during his stay, and his health was monitored for a further 48 hours.
The main stab wound was a very, very small distance from a main vein and it was only by chance that his injuries were not life threatening. The second stab wound to his chest was less serious.
His condition is comfortable. But, it is unlikely that he will be allowed to leave hospital in time for the Millennium celebrations. I expect him to remain in hospital for at least the next few days for monitoring and is not expected to have more treatment, although he will be left with a small scar on his chest.
Consultant thoracic surgeon, Harefield Hospital
The incident left Harrison breathless and scarred, and with lasting psychological damage.
It changed him. We all felt that. And we were sure that’s why the cancer came back. He’d been looking so well, but after the attack he didn’t have the strength left to fight.
You Never Give Me Your Money, Peter Doggett
Abram’s flat, in a tower block at Woodfall Heights, Huyton, Liverpool, was searched by police on the afternoon of 30 December.
The Harrisons have been subjected to a vicious attack and it didn’t appear to be a random assault linked to a simple robbery. There has been some speculation that it was a burglary that went wrong, but, my own view at present, is that it isn’t a burglary that went wrong, but he probably came here on purpose.
Thames Valley Police
Harrison’s former bandmates were quick to reveal their concern.
Thank God both George and Olivia are all right. I send them all my love.
Both Barbara and I are deeply shocked that this has occurred. We send George and Olivia all our love and wish George a speedy recovery.
Both statements were issued via McCartney’s publicist, Geoff Baker, who also gave reporters a fuller account.
Everyone is totally shocked. Paul McCartney was told the news early today and was also shocked and anxious to hear more from the hospital. We were told George was stabbed several times with what we assume was a knife and that Olivia was hit over the head. We don’t know if they were asleep when the intruder made his way into their home. God knows how he got through the security around the house. Apparently they both fought back hard against the attack. Thank God that they both appear to be stable in hospital. We are all totally shocked that a second Beatle has been attacked. Nothing like this has happened before to George to make him worried about his safety.
The Beatles’ producer George Martin also gave his reactions to reporters.
I can’t imagine that this has got anything to do with the fact that George is a Beatle and the John Lennon thing. I think it’s a question of a burglary that went wrong. The house is a very grand place and I know there are always people trying to get in. George leads a very quiet life and is a very down-to-earth person. He loves nothing more than doing his garden at home. It’s such a large property and needed a lot of security. Somebody must have got through. If you have a large place and a determined person, there is nothing really to stop them, apart from an armed force, which is the last thing George would want.
The following day, 31 December 1999, Oxford magistrates ordered Michael Abram to be held in a secure psychiatric unit in Liverpool until formal charges could be made. He appeared in court with a black eye and a bloodstained face.
Abram was given bail until 11 February 2000 while undergoing psychiatric treatment. It was also revealed that he was a former heroin addict with a history of mental illness, and was said to have an obsession with The Beatles.
Train tickets were found in the possession of the defendant and it appeared that he had travelled down from his home on Merseyside to commit the attack. It is also apparent that Abram had travelled down to Oxfordshire on a number of occasions to find out where George lived and had, on one occasion, asked a cleric about the geography of the area. There was no dispute that Abram had attacked the Harrisons. The case would centre on whether at the time of the incident, Abram was suffering from abnormality of mind. He believed that The Beatles were witches who flew around on broomsticks. Subsequently, George Harrison possessed him and that he had been sent on a mission by God to kill him. He saw George as a sorcerer and a devil. Experts conclude that, while the defendant undoubtedly intended to kill Mr Harrison, he did not realise that to do so was wrong because of his deluded belief about being possessed. If you conclude that the defendant did the act and that he was insane, your verdict will be ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’.
The trial ended on 15 November 2000. Abram was found not guilty of two charges of attempted murder on the grounds of diminished responsibility, following evaluations by three psychiatrists. The judge, Mr Justice Astill, described the incident at Friar Park as a “horrifying attack,” and made Abram the subject of a hospital order without any restrictions of time.
Abram was held and treated in a secure psychiatric unit, Scott secure clinic in Rainhill, on Merseyside. After the trial, Dhani Harrison told reporters: “Abram was only acquitted by a loophole in the law. We shall never forget he was full of hatred and violence when he came into our home. The prospect of him being released into society is abhorrent and we hope that the authorities will allow us to be consulted.”
Also on this day...
- 2016: The Beatles’ first manager Allan Williams dies
- 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.