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1999: Nude swordsman attacks churchgoers

Eleven people have been injured in a sword attack at a church in south London.

A naked man wielding a 3 ft (91 cm) Samurai sword burst into St Andrew's Roman Catholic church in Thornton Heath, Croydon, during Sunday Mass.

The man indiscriminately attacked parishioners - injuring four of them critically - before he was overpowered by members of the congregation.

Police have said they are holding a 26-year-old local man in custody.


"Five minutes previously I was singing the psalm - the next thing I was fighting with a sword-wielding madman"

Policeman Tom Tracey

The attack happened shortly after the 1030 service had started and witnesses said there was screaming and panic when the man - who has not been identified - began slashing at worshippers.

Many of the churchgoers ran into the adjoining hall where a children's service was being held.

"We were probably 15 minutes into the children's liturgy when the door from the church opened and a mass stampede of people came through," said Nanette Frederiksson.

One parishioner, Bob Wright, attempted to distract the man by thrusting a large crucifix in his face.

But it was off-duty policeman Tom Tracey who eventually managed to overpower the attacker with a 5 ft (152 cm) long organ pipe.

"Five minutes previously I was singing the psalm - the next thing I was fighting with a sword-wielding madman," he said.

The first paramedics to arrive said they were confronted with a scene of "blood and panic".

Most of the victims were taken to the Mayday hospital in Croydon where a consultant described the stab and slash wounds they had suffered as "horrific".

Detective Chief Inspector Phil Fitzgerald said he had no idea why the man carried out the attack.

In Context
Eden Strang was charged with seven counts of attempted murder and six of assault.

He denied all the charges and said he attacked the parishioners because he believed they were demons.

In June 2000, an Old Bailey jury declared him not guilty for reasons of insanity and the judge ordered he be detained indefinitely at a psychiatric hospital under the Mental Health Act.

He was released in March 2002 and went to live in a hostel in the Thornton Heath area, monitored by a public protection panel.

PC Tom Tracey, the policeman who helped overpower Strang, received the Commissioner's High Commendation, the Metropolitan Police's top award.

All those injured in the attack survived.


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