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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Freed Beatle's attacker sorry
Olivia and George Harrison on holiday in Italy
George Harrison's widow Olivia is angry and upset
A schizophrenic man who is being freed 19 months after he was detained for stabbing George Harrison, has apologised - and insisted he is no longer a risk.

Michael Abram said: "If I could turn back the clock I would give anything not to have done what I did. But I have come to realise that I was very ill at that time, really not in control.

"People may find it hard to accept but with the help of the medication I'm on I am sure I can lead a normal life. I just want to be an ordinary bloke."


My illness was missed by almost all the doctors and nurses until I was turned out of a hospital while I was still very ill

Michael Abram

The late Beatle's family reacted furiously to the "upsetting and insulting" news of Abram's discharge, saying the musician would have been "dismayed".

Abram, 36, of Huyton, Merseyside, stabbed Harrison repeatedly after breaking into his Henley-on-Thames mansion in December 1999.

He was cleared at Oxford Crown Court in November 2000 of attempted murder on the grounds of insanity, but ordered to be detained at a secure hospital "without time restriction".

Michael Abram with his mother, Linda
Abram is being released to live in a hostel
A tribunal ruled on Thursday that he had responded well to treatment and was fit to be released from the Scott Clinic in Rainhill, Merseyside.

The timing of his actual release has not been disclosed. A hospital spokeswoman said his discharge was conditional and he would be living in a "structured care environment".

Abram said: "I can only hope the Harrison family might somehow find it in their hearts to accept my apologies. I am ashamed of what I did and deeply sorry it happened.

"My illness was missed by almost all the doctors and nurses until I was turned out of a hospital while I was still very ill.

"If only the doctors had correctly identified my illness, it could have been avoided."


We can never forget how brutally close Abram came to killing dear George and myself

Olivia Harrison

Harrison's widow Olivia and son Dhani said: "We can never forget how brutally close Abram came to killing dear George and myself, nor the trauma inflicted on our son and family."

They said the "vicious" attack on Harrison, who died of cancer last November, had robbed him of the vital energy he needed to maintain his health.

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'

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.

Abram Timeline
Dec 99: Breaks into Harrison's home, attacking him and his wife
Nov 2000: Found not guilty on grounds of insanity
Nov 2000: Ordered detained "without time restriction"
July 2002: Granted conditional discharge
"Michael is a man who, when on medication, is very well."

Mr Edwards said Abram - who had been released from a mental hospital five months before the attack - should "never have been allowed to commit this offence in the first place".

Mental health groups said the decision would not have been taken lightly, and said people with even the most severe mental health problems could recover.

But victims' groups branded the decision "a disgrace".

Mental health charity Mind said it wanted to reassure the public that the decision to discharge Abram would not have been taken lightly and would have been very carefully considered by a panel of independent experts.

'Continued care'

"People can recover from even the most severe mental health problems with the correct treatment and support," said the charity.

"Michael Abram has now been assessed as ready to return to the community."

Mind added that with the "right level of continued care, which means suitable accommodation and health services and support, the public shouldn't assume that history will automatically repeat itself".

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 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Daniel Sandford
"George Harrison was stabbed 10 times in the chest"

In DepthIN DEPTH
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See also:

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