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Saturday, 26 July 2014

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Cumbrian nurse jailed for 14 years for knife attack

A Cumbrian nurse who subjected his estranged wife to a frenzied knife attack as he tried to kill her has been jailed for 14 years.

 David Shepherd photo
David Shepherd

Former Macmillan nurse David Shepherd, 34, who worked in Penrith and grew up in Abbeytown, near Carlisle, admitted attempted murder. He stabbed his wife Stephanie 27 times, returning to his house to get a second carving knife after the first one bent.

At Carlisle Crown Court, Judge Paul Batty QC said his victim only survived thanks to the bravery of a neighbour and the skill of the NHS surgeons who operated on her.

Prosecutor Tim Brennand described how the defendant and his wife had been married for five years but their relationship failed and they decided to split.

“Neighbours commented that they led an unremarkable life, with no volatility or arguments ever witnessed,” said the barrister.

The couple’s two children – aged two and five – lived with the mother at her home in Kendal while the father was given access.

A turning point in the relationship came after Mrs Shepherd instigated divorce proceedings and the family courts became involved.

In the couple of hours before the defendant launched his attack, on December 9, he sent 46 text messages to his new girlfriend, some suggesting clearly that murder was in his mind, the court heard.

As Mrs Shepherd arrived at the defendant’s home in High Sparrowmire, Kendal, to drop off their two-year-old daughter, he said to her: “You are not doing what I want.”

She insisted that issues over the children should be sorted out by the family court, and he went back into his house, emerging seconds later with a kitchen knife.

“The defendant launched a brutal, ferocious, frenzied attack with that knife, striking his wife to the side of the head, with sufficient force for that knife to be bent by 90 degrees; and for the tip of the blade to break off,” Mr Brennand said.

“The tip of the knife was later recovered from the complainant’s skull by surgeons. Doctors later counted 27 separate wounds to her face, body and limbs.”

Neighbour George Miller saw the second phase of the attack after Shepherd came back out of his house with a new knife. He later told police what he saw.

He said: “He [Shepherd] was trying to find specific places to stab that he hadn’t already injured. He grabbed hold of her pulled her head towards him and stabbed her in the head. I can’t say how many times. He was trying to kill her. I was screaming – ‘David, put the knife down’.”

Shepherd finally stopped after Mr Miller pointed out the presence of Shepherd’s two-year-old daughter.

The victim suffered a collapsed lung and lost a huge amount of blood.

Afterwards, Shepherd fled to his brother’s house in Shap, admitted what he had done and asked for a priest.

He admitted that he had taken diazepam tablets before the attack, saying: “I just lost it. I need help.”

Mrs Shepherd needed nine hours of reconstructive surgery. In a statement, she described the emotional and psychological impact of what happened as devastating, but said she was trying to remain strong for her children.

Kim Whittlestone, for Shepherd, said that at the time of the attack her client was suffering from a mental illness. That combined with his use of the tranquilliser had led to him behaving a way that was entirely out of character.

Passing sentence, Judge Batty said the text messages sent by Shepherd on the morning of his crime clearly showed that murder was in his mind. It was only the miraculous efforts of the surgeons that had saved the defendant from a murder charge, he said.

He said: “Before the events of this terrible day you had led a blameless life.

“Not only a blameless life, but a good life, and you had worked as a Macmillan nurse in the care services.”

The judge awarded £750 to Mr Miller, describing his actions that day as “extreme bravery”.

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