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Thursday, 4 July, 2002, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
Beatle's attacker to be freed
George and Olivia Harrison
Abram attacked George and Olivia Harrison
The man who stabbed the late Beatle George Harrison after breaking into his mansion is being released from the secure hospital where he has been held.

A panel of experts decided on Thursday Michael Abram, 36, is fit to be released from the Scott Clinic in Rainhill, Merseyside where he has been detained under the Mental Health Act.

He has been given a conditional discharge and will be released from the secure unit into a hostel where he will continue treatment.

But George Harrison's family reacted angrily to the news of Abram's release saying the musician would have been "dismayed" by the decision.

In a statement, his widow Olivia and son Dhani, said: "No-one had the courtesy to tell us in advance there had been an application for his discharge, let a lone a date for a hearing.

'Vicious attack'

"We were thus given no opportunity whatsoever to have our say, or to review the medical evidence and instruct our own expert.

"We can never forget how brutally close Abram came to killing dear George and myself, nor the trauma inflicted on our son and family."

The statement said that the "vicious" attack on George Harrison had robbed him of the vital energy he needed at the time to maintain his health.

The former Beatle died last November after a battle with cancer.

A spokeswoman for Mersey Care NHS Trust, which runs the Scott Clinic, said the Mental Health Review Tribunal had decided to discharge Abram at his annual review.

Michael Abram with his mother, Linda
Abram is being released to live in a hostel
She said: "In this case, the tribunal has given a conditional discharge - the conditions, which remain confidential, are to ensure the safety and security of the public."

Abram, of Huyton, Merseyside, was cleared at Oxford Crown Court 19 months ago of attempting to murder Harrison and his wife Olivia on the grounds of insanity.

But he was ordered to be detained at a secure hospital unit "without time restriction".

He stabbed Harrison repeatedly after breaking into his Henley-on-Thames mansion in December 1999, five weeks after leaving a psychiatric unit at Whiston Hospital.

The decision to release Abram comes just days after it emerged Samurai sword attacker Eden Strang had been released from a secure mental unit to a hostel in south London.

'A disgrace'

Since the trial, Abram's family and solicitor have been fighting for his release.

Abram's solicitor Peter Edwards said the decision to release his client was "another step in Michael's rehabilitation.

He said: "What people have to realise is that this is not the Michael that attacked George Harrison - this is the real Michael.

"Michael is a man who, when on medication, is very well."

Mr Edwards said Abram should "never have been allowed to commit this offence in the first place."

Norman Brennan, chairman of the Victims of Crime Trust, said Abram's imminent release was "a disgrace".

He said: "The lunatics have taken over the asylum.

Public assured

"We have people who are clearly a danger to the public, yet what do we do?

"Rather than lock them up for a long time, once the furore has died down we release them through the back door."

However, a spokesman for the mental health charity Mind said: "We want to reassure the public that the decision to discharge Michael Abram would not have been taken lightly.

"A tribunal reviewing a patient's detention in hospital has to be assured the patient has responded well to treatment and that they do not pose a danger to the public.

"People can recover from even the most severe mental health problems with the correct treatment and support and Michael Abram has now been assessed as ready to return to the community."

'Celebrity conspiracy'

During his trial, the court was told Abram thought he was the victim of a conspiracy by a host of celebrities, including members of Oasis and the Beatles and Madonna.

Armed with electrical flex, a pole from a broken statue, a table lamp and a knife, he viciously assaulted Harrison and his wife Olivia, stabbing the millionaire guitarist at least 10 times, jurors heard.

Officials from Knowsley and St Helens Health Authority later apologised for failing to admit Abram 18 months before the attack.

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29 Jun 02 | England
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