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Last Updated: Monday, 25 February 2008, 13:58 GMT
'I survived the bus stop killer'
By Ben Ando
BBC crime reporter

Levi Bellfield has been convicted of bludgeoning two women to death. But police believe he may be responsible for other attacks in south-west London.

Edel Harbison
Police are still investigating a number of cases linked to Bellfield

In April 2004 City accountant Edel Harbison was walking home after having a Sunday evening drink with friends in Twickenham.

Leaving Harrington's bar, she crossed Twickenham Green, in a well-to-do area of south-west London, before heading down Hampton Road, a well lit street on the 267 bus route.

A vivacious Irish woman, she was looking forward to a planned trip to Australia the following week to attend a wedding.

But not only was she unable to get to the wedding: that night she did not even reach home.

She said: "All I can remember is waking up in the emergency room and seeing doctors and nurses around me.

"I kept saying to them: 'Don't worry, I'll be fine, I'm sorry to cause you trouble, don't go to any trouble over me,' but of the following three-and-a-half weeks, I think I can only really remember a total of about ten minutes."

Multiple injuries

Ms Harbison was rushed to West Middlesex Hospital after being found wandering along the road with horrific injuries.

She remembers the doctors telling her they needed to shave her blonde hair to treat her wounds and says she has groggy memories of various friends and relatives coming to visit.

She had suffered multiple fractures to her skull, in a spot just behind and about two inches above her left ear, and also had hand injuries.

"The police told me I must have been hit multiple times - certainly more than once," Ms Harbison said.

"The first blow could have caused the head injuries, and then I must have put my hands up to protect myself and that's why I got a broken knuckle."

I found myself thinking that if I'd been able to remember more, maybe the police could have caught Amelie's attacker and she would still be alive
Edel Harbison

She has no doubt what hit her and says she has the scars to prove it.

"There's a dent about the size of a ten pence piece, and below it a sort of long furrow, in my skull," she explained. "It's virtually a perfect imprint of the head of a hammer and its claw."

Ms Harbison is full of admiration for the doctors who saved her, and the neurologists and other experts who helped her recuperate.

At first, detectives investigating her case were not sure whether she had been attacked, or hit by a car, or had just fallen over and banged her head.

"I told them it was impossible for me to have hit that part of my head even if I'd tripped backward, but I couldn't remember anything of the incident," she recalled.

Detectives soon came to the conclusion Ms Harbison had been attacked with some kind of blunt instrument. But checks on CCTV footage in the area and house-to-house enquiries provided few clues.

One neighbour had heard a scream at the estimated time of the attack, but no-one was able to give a description of a likely suspect.

'I just froze'

The police did suggest to Ms Harbison the attack might be linked to the murder, just over a year earlier, of Marsha McDonnell in nearby Hampton. She too had been struck on the back of the head.

"I told them I couldn't believe it. I thought we looked completely different. But in the dark, I guess he would have just seen a blonde female figure," she said.

Four months after the attack, Ms Harbison was able to return to work. But later that month, detectives called her with more shocking news.

"They rang to tell me about the attack on Amelie Delagrange, that she'd been murdered," explained Ms Harbison.

"I was with my parents in Ireland, and they tracked me down there to phone me. They said they didn't want me hearing about it in the media first."

Ms Delagrange had been killed only a short distance from where she had been attacked and the shock of her lucky escape hit her hard.

As I looked at his back and shoulders in court I had this recurring image of his arms striking down repeatedly

"I was really surprised and grateful that the police went to the effort of contacting me first," she said.

"I felt a real sense of shock about what happened to Amelie. I found myself thinking that if I'd been able to remember more, maybe the police could have caught her attacker and she would still be alive."

Levi Bellfield is now known to be the man who killed Amelie Delagrange and Marsha McDonnell. Edel Harbison believes he also attacked her.

She said: "The police asked me if I wanted to go to court to see Bellfield when he was first arraigned at the magistrates. I went with a friend, and when I got there a female police officer sat with me.

"Amelie's parents travelled from France for the hearing, and as they walked in her mother pointed at me and said 'she's just like Amelie'.

"Then when Bellfield was brought in I just froze. I literally could not move my legs. Although I can't remember anything of the attack on me, as I looked at his back and shoulders in court I had this recurring image of his arms striking down repeatedly.

"I don't know why, but I also have images of him in my head wearing a white England football shirt."

'Why did I survive?'

Ms Harbison travelled to the Old Bailey several times to listen to Bellfield's trial.

Although she is confident it was Bellfield who attacked her, she says she understands why he will never be tried for it.

"I suppose deep down it is frustrating, but the truth is there just isn't the evidence. And the way I see it is that even if my case was added, he wouldn't get any longer in jail so what's the point?" she said.

She is a strong character. She still lives in the same house in Twickenham, and has just landed a new job. She was determined not to let the attack on her cast a shadow over her life forever.

She is philosophical about the incident: "The injuries I suffered have obviously had an effect on me - I've lost my sense of smell, and have a permanent buzzing above my left ear. But I think it's important to move on. I also think I was very lucky.

"I do wonder why it is that I lived and didn't die. Why didn't he finish me off like Amelie? I don't know. Maybe being that little bit older, I was just a bit stronger.

"I didn't fall over; perhaps he expected me to and when I didn't maybe he panicked and ran off. I suppose I'll never know. But having been given this chance to continue living, I am determined not to waste it."

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