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Monday, 19 February, 2001, 17:47 GMT
Politician died in 'sacrificial killing'
Robert Ashman
Robert Ashman suffers from paranoid psychosis
A councillor died at the hands of a man using a Samurai sword to carry out a "sacrificial killing", a court has been told.

Andrew Pennington, 39, a Gloucestershire county councillor, died from multiple stab wounds to his chest and stomach, in a frenzied attack by Robert Ashman, Bristol Crown Court heard.

At least six sword wounds went all the way through his body.

The jury was told on Monday the attack "bore all the hallmarks of a ceremonial or sacrificial killing".

Nigel Jones, Cheltenham Liberal Democrat MP, was also injured in the attack in his offices on 28 January last year.

andrew pennington
Andrew Pennington died four days before his 40th birthday
Mr Ashman, a father-of-two, was charged with Mr Pennington's murder and the attempted murder of Mr Jones but was found to be mentally unfit to stand trial.

The three-day hearing is being held to determine who carried out the attack.

Mr Ashman, 50, of Lansdown Place, Cheltenham, suffers from paranoid psychosis and believes he is being conspired against.

He had made more than 100 visits to the MP's surgeries before the day of the attack.

'Lunged with sword'

During that visit he began by discussing his fears of a plot against him by Cheltenham Borough Council and Lloyds Bank, the court was told.

Suddenly he pulled a sword which was hidden under his overcoat and held it vertically "as if part of some ceremony", prosecutor Paul Garlick said.

Nigel Jones, MP
Nigel Jones was at Bristol Crown Court for three-day hearing
"He then lowered the sword so that it was horizontal with the tip pointing at Nigel Jones. He then lunged with the sword toward his stomach."

The MP grabbed the blade in a desperate attempt to save the councillor, suffering severe cuts to his hands.

Later Mr Jones denied he killed his best friend and aide by mistake.

Roger Everest, defending, asked him: "Did you by accident, in mistaken self-defence, drive the sword into Andrew Pennington behind you?"

But the MP said his colleague stayed to protect him while he made his escape.

'Brave act'

He said: "Mr Pennington was alive but he chose to stay to try to get the defendant off me.

"It was the bravest act I have ever experienced and he saved my life".

I heard him say 'Go, Nigel', I looked up and saw the open door and made for it as quickly as I could

Nigel Jones
Mr Jones described his fight for life as he wrestled with Mr Ashman.

He appeared visibly shaken when he was shown the 3ft weapon in court.

"When the end of the sword got within three inches my reflexes took over and I turned sharply to the right. I grabbed the blade of the sword as he lunged at me," said Mr Jones.

He said he fell forwards onto a sofa with Mr Ashman on top of him and the sword underneath.

Mr Jones said he felt the breath being squeezed out of him as Mr Ashman pressed onto him wrenching the sword around in his hands.

Hands 'filleted'

He told how the tendons of his hands were "filleted" and he suffered up to 30 cuts, which were treated with 57 stitches.

The MP said although he lost sight of the other office staff, he escaped when Mr Pennington smashed something over Mr Ashman's head.

He said: "I heard him say 'Go, Nigel.' I looked up and saw the open door and made for it as quickly as I could".

Receptionist Roma Wollen saw Mr Pennington struggling with Mr Ashman and tried to call the police.

The phone was dead and she ran into the street.

She returned to see Mr Ashman leaving the office carrying a blood-covered sword.

He was arrested minutes later.

The hearing continues.

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See also:

28 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Nigel Jones: A constituency man
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