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Victim amazed as knife attacker walks free

PUBLISHED: 09:30 03 June 2006 | UPDATED: 10:57 22 October 2010

CHRISTINE CUNNINGHAM

A businessman who nearly died after being stabbed 13 times by an American airman said it was “beyond comprehension” that his attacker had been allowed to walk free from court.

A businessman who nearly died after being stabbed 13 times by an American airman said it was “beyond comprehension” that his attacker had been allowed to walk free from court.

Staff Sgt Lorrenzo Sanchez, who was based at RAF Mildenhall, was found not guilty at Ipswich Crown Court on Thursday of attempting to murder 63-year-old Derek Thrower by reason of insanity.

But Mr Thrower says he was “utterly shocked” by the verdict - and the decision to let Sanchez go free.

Mr Thrower, who lived in Mildenhall until moving to France four years ago, was attacked by Sanchez - who he had never met before - while staying at the Wherry Hotel, in Oulton Broad, Lowestoft on May 11 last year.

During Sanchez's trial, the jury was told that the American, staying at the hotel ahead of a survival training course, broke into Mr Thrower's room, which was next door to his own, after a night out drinking with colleagues.

He initially apologised and left, but returned moments later with a knife and stabbed Mr Thrower in the neck, arm and chest, puncturing his lung, severing a tendon in his arm and leaving him with a hole in his diaphragm.

After the jury's verdict on Thursday, Judge John Devaux decided not to place a hospital or supervision order on Sanchez because he had already spent seven months in prison and further five on conditional bail.

He said Sanchez was planning to go back to America and gave him an absolute discharge.

But Mr Thrower, who runs his own company repairing machinery and was in Lowestoft on business at the time of the attack, said he was “utterly shocked and disgusted with the outcome of the court case”.

“It is a hard thing to accept, and to think this man is walking around free is scary,” he said.

Mr Thrower, who lives in France with his wife Barbara, daughter and two young grandchildren, said he had been left with physical and emotional scars by the incident.

“I was in hospital for two weeks, but the surgeons did not operate on me at first because they did not think I was going to make it,” he said. “I was told afterwards it was a miracle I survived.”

He said he had lost 40pc use of one hand and suffered breathing problems because of the attack.

“But I also struggle mentally with what has happened, and it has been a very difficult thing to come to terms with, particularly for my family,” Mr Thrower said.

After the case, a Crown Prosecution Service spokeswoman said: “The issue the jury had to decide was whether Mr Sanchez was in a state of disassociation when he attacked the victim.

“The court heard medical evidence as to the state of mind of Mr Sanchez at the time of the incident and it was the duty of jury to decide whether Mr Sanchez was in complete control of his functions at the time of the assault.”


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