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Thursday, 02 July 2015

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'Friends say I'm pretty, when I look in the mirror I feel upset' - Cumbria stabbing victim

The courage of a woman who sustained appalling injuries in a frenzied knife attack shone through as she told a packed court how her life had changed.

Brampton stab couple photo
Sally Roythorne and Robert Plevin

Sally Roythorne, 36, and her partner Robert Plevin, 41, were at Carlisle Crown Court to see the man who tried to murder them jailed indefinitely.

Matt Lucas, who was a friend of his victims, carried out the terrifying knife attack on the couple after being invited to their Tree Road home in Brampton for a housewarming party on May 23 last year.

Lucas was among a small group of guests who had decided to stay overnight.

Three times over the drink drive limit, the 40-the year-old chef made advances to three women at the party, but was rebuffed each time.

Shortly after 4am, Lucas armed himself with a large kitchen knife and sneaked into the bedroom where his victims were sleeping.

First he stabbed Mr Plevin twice in the neck, cutting but not severing an artery.

Then he turned on Miss Roythorne, who fought desperately to fend off what lawyers said was a frenzied and sustained attack.

She was stabbed 18 times in the face and head, and suffered defence wounds to her hands and a punctured lung. The court heard that Lucas had no motive for the attack.

The judge, Mr Justice Mackay, suggested Lucas snapped because he felt rejected after he was snubbed by the three women guests.

The most poignant part of the hearing came as Miss Roythorne read her victim statement in open court.

As Lucas sat in the dock, his head bowed, she gave a vivid account of how her life had changed dramatically since the motiveless attack. Though her physical injuries are now healed, the memory of what happened continues to haunt her.

She told how the wounds she suffered to her hands had left her with some disability.

She said: “My facial scarring is the only injury that concerns me. It affects my confidence when I speak to people who don’t know what happened. My family and friends tell me I am still pretty, but when I look in the mirror I feel upset.

“This is not because of how I look. The surgeons did a wonderful job of stitching me back together but the scars represent the horrific attack which I endured.

“I’m sad I have to carry this on display every day.”

She told how before the attack, she had loved her job as a police sergeant in Hexham, hoping one day to work as the senior investigating officer on a major inquiry.

“It seems ironic that I became the victim in such an investigation,” she said.

Miss Roythorne tried to return to work to re-establish normality in her life, but had to take on an office role because she so feared being attacked. Though at first the return to work helped, she began suffering horrendous panic attacks and anxiety, her mind overwhelmed by memories of the day she and her partner were attacked.

Now, she cannot imagine returning to her old policing role, she said.

Recalling her worst period of anxiety over several weeks, she said: “I quite simply had to stop doing everything: working, cooking, walking the dog, running, seeing friends.

“Now I am back to most activities other than work.”

She has found a refuge in meditation, learned at the Kadampa Buddhist Centre in Upperby, Carlisle. Surprisingly, she and her partner have returned to the house where they were attacked by Lucas. Miss Roythorne said her son wanted to move back to their home, and this gave her the strength to face her fears.

“I am spooked by the house occasionally, due to the memories it holds. But we have tried to replace them with good memories: after all, it was the place where we stayed alive.”

The psychological aftermath of the attack on her and Mr Plevin has been and remains considerable. Neither she nor her partner are able to socialise as they once did because she finds it hard to trust many people.

Her fear of knives is now such that she has refused to have them in the house. Nor can she watch the news on TV, for fear that it may contain images of violence.

She added: “For Rob and I, one good thing is the growth it’s brought in our relationship and the strength we have drawn from each other.”

After hearing Miss Roythorne speak, Mr Justice Mackay thanked her for her courage and dignity.

Outside court, Mr Plevin read a statement for the couple, saying: “We are still in a state of utter disbelief about the incident last year, although we don’t have any clarity as to why the attack occurred.

“We believe that the police and the criminal justice system have dealt with the case appropriately. The proceedings in court today will help us come to terms with it.

“The last 10 months have been incredibly traumatic. While we bear no anger, we are satisfied with the sentence and feel we can start to put our lives back together.”

He went on to thank family, friends, ambulance staff, medical staff at The Cumberland Infirmary, and the police officers who worked on the case, including detective sergeant Jo Jansen, and liaison officer Gary Watson.

Mr Plevin added: “We’re very sad about the whole thing and sad for Matt, who has been afflicted with this. There are no winners, but we feel blessed.

“It makes you see life in a completely different way. We’re grateful to be alive.”

After admitting two counts of attempted murder, Lucas, of Chapel Street, Temple Sowerby,


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