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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 November 2005, 15:06 GMT
Abigail - from victim to mother
By James Clarke
BBC News

Abigail Witchalls with her son Joseph
Abigail Witchalls was with her son Joseph when she was attacked
When Abigail Witchalls was stabbed while walking with her toddler along a country lane there was widespread shock.

The attack on 20 April in Little Bookham, Surrey, left Mrs Witchalls paralysed and unable to speak.

But her husband said they felt no anger towards the knifeman and felt "blessed and lucky" she had survived.

By June she had regained some movement and in November gave birth to the baby she was expecting when she was stabbed.

The 26-year-old was pushing her son Joseph, then aged 21 months, in his buggy down a lane in a leafy area near their home when she was stabbed in the neck.

'Strength of spirit'

It emerged the attacker had also held the knife to Joseph's neck.

Mrs Witchalls was found bleeding by a neighbour who summoned help.

While she was treated in hospital in the days after the stabbing, her father Martin Hollins spoke of his shock, but said his daughter had "communicated that somehow she has the strength of spirit to cope".

Abigail Witchalls with occupational therapist Emma Linley
Mrs Witchalls was treated at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital

Villagers told the BBC they were shocked and upset and the incident had made them start looking over their shoulders.

But Mrs Witchalls, still unable to talk, gave a statement to police within days by blinking and mouthing "yes" and "no" answers.

Her husband Benoit appeared in an appeal on the BBC's Crimewatch programme in May and, asked about his feelings for the attacker, said "we haven't really thought about it much".

He said the couple felt no anger, but accepted it may come later, and he said his wife "didn't seem to be too traumatised".

'Blessing and joy'

By then Mrs Witchalls had been transferred to a specialist spinal injuries unit at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London.

Soon it emerged she could breathe on her own and talk for short periods and had feeling returning to her body, but still could not move her arms or legs.

In June it was revealed she was pregnant and that her unborn baby was developing normally.

By the end of the month there were more details of her recovery - Mrs Witchalls was able to eat, speak, move her arm and hand and sit in a wheelchair.

The Witchalls family, including their new baby - picture from hospital
Mrs Witchalls gave birth less than seven months after the attack

In August her father said she was looking forward to being allowed home but did not know when that would be possible.

But at the start of November she was discharged from hospital with her family saying her morale was "as good as ever".

She released a statement thanking hospital staff for their enthusiasm and care and said they had given her confidence to expect more improvement in the future.

Within eight days she was back in hospital to give birth to her son, who was named Dominic.

She was able to give birth naturally and her baby was said to be healthy, despite being born five weeks early.

Mrs Witchalls will continue to need ongoing therapy, with access to NHS carers 24 hours a day and her home having been specially adapted.

But she said her new baby would help her cope, saying: "I have found great strength and comfort in carrying this child over the past few months and it is such a blessing and a joy to now finally see him face to face."


SEE ALSO:
Abigail attempted murder 'solved'
22 Nov 05 |  Southern Counties
Stabbed Abigail's joy after birth
12 Nov 05 |  Southern Counties
Stabbed Abigail leaves hospital
03 Nov 05 |  Southern Counties
Scars left after Abigail stabbing
26 Sep 05 |  Southern Counties
Young mother stabbed in the neck
21 Apr 05 |  Southern Counties


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