THIS weekend a girl of just 11 was left fighting for life after being knifed in North London – yet stabbings are now so common that the savage attack has barely made headline news.
But when Cathy Humphrey heard about this latest outrage, targeting the girl, her mother and two sisters, it brought back in grim detail the horror of the day she too was stabbed repeatedly and left for dead.
She was so badly hurt as the attacker plunged his knife into her seven times that she had virtually no blood left in her body when she got to hospital, and had had to be brought back to life in the ambulance.
It happened in January 1987 when Cathy was just ten years old.
In those days, knife attacks by strangers — let alone on primary school pupils — were so rare that her ordeal made front pages and TV news bulletins around the world.
But now knife crime has risen to record levels in England and Wales, with more than 110 reported offences a day. However, the number of offenders prosecuted for knife possession has plummeted, with just four in ten instances resulting in a charge.
Cathy, now 42, has never talked about her ordeal, nor has she been back to the spot in Minster, Kent, where she lay in the snow in a pool of blood after escaping her attacker.
But she feels strongly that Britain’s knife crime epidemic must end. And she summoned up the courage to revisit for the first time in 32 years the spot where she nearly died.
'WE NEED ACTION TO GET A GRIP, NOT WORDS'
Cathy is determined that politicians such as Boris Johnson, who has promised to get tough on crime, know the heartbreaking reality — that knife attacks not only ruin the lives of stab victims but their families, too.
She says: “Because I was young when I was stabbed, I naively thought that because of what happened to me it might stop knife attacks.
“I never imagined that, years later, carrying a knife to kill would become a part of everyday life. I am sick of politicians making promises about getting tough. Knife crime is absolutely horrendous. We need action to get a grip, not words. How many more lives must be lost?
“Every time I hear of a knife attack, the memories come flooding back and I get in a low way for two or three days.
“It’s only in the past five years that I’ve stopped having flashbacks — it’s taken nearly a quarter of a century for the nightmares to stop.
“Being caught carrying a knife should be like drink-driving — you get done. If someone has a knife for protection, they are going to use it.”
It was just after lunchtime on Friday, January 16, 1987, that Cathy’s ordeal began, just a week after she and her family moved to Minster, a pretty village near Ramsgate.
'SHE BLAMED HERSELF'
School had been cancelled because of snow and Cathy pestered her mum Pam to let her make the short walk into the village alone to buy stamps for letters telling her old friends of her new address.
Cathy says: “Mum didn’t want me to go because we hadn’t been there long and I had to cross a road.
“She blamed herself for what happened and the shock made her hair fall out.”
As Cathy walked home, a man she had first noticed in the shop while buying stamps stopped his silver Nissan to ask for directions to the bank.
Kelvin Chapman — a 28-year-old London bus driver who already had a conviction for abducting a girl off the street and raping her — had hired the car to go to Kent to find a victim.
When Cathy said she didn’t know the way to the bank, he pushed her over a low wall, then dragged her into the passenger side of the car.
Today, sitting on that same wall, Cathy remembers: “There were needles and drugs on the back seat. If he had put me in the back of the car, I wouldn’t be here today.
“I was calling for help and he said, ‘Nobody’s coming for you’. He pushed my head down so far that I was all crumpled up in the passenger well.
“Then he opened the glove box, took out a knife and stabbed me in the stomach. That first one really hurt and then I suppose adrenaline kicked in. He kept on saying, ‘Tell me where the bank is’.
DRENCHED IN BLOOD
“I just kept saying, ‘I don’t know. I want my mum.’ He said, ‘You are not going to see your mum again.’
“I thought, ‘I have got to get out of here or I am going to die.’ I raised up to have a look around.
“He went to stab my face and then I put my hand up and he stabbed me between my fingers.”
Chapman stabbed his young victim five more times in the body before Cathy opened the passenger door and tried to escape.
He grabbed her but she managed to wriggle out of her coat, leap from the car and flee down an alleyway towards home. With her jumper drenched in blood, Cathy ran 40 yards before collapsing, lying on her side and pretending to be dead as Chapman sprinted along the alley.
She says: “He was like a madman and, even at that age, I knew all he wanted was to kill. So I lay on my side and played dead. If he thought for one minute I was alive he’d have dragged me back to the car.
“I remember as plain as if it was yesterday. He kicked me in the head, said, ‘Yes, I’ve f***ing killed her!’ and then sauntered off.”
Cathy lay there until she heard his car drive off, then tried to run home but collapsed again and was found by a vicar who raised the alarm.
HANDED HIMSELF IN TO THE POLICE
She says: “The next thing I remember is being laid out in the hallway at home, and a horrible sucking noise made by my breathing. Mum can’t forget that terrible noise, even today.”
When it appeared Cathy had died in the ambulance, medics revived her on the way to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital, where she was put on its only ventilator. Later, after wellwishers sent her hundreds of teddies, Cathy auctioned them to buy another life support machine for the hospital.
As the hunt for her attacker continued, The Sun printed Chapman’s name and a photofit on its front page — and he handed himself in to police.
So rare was a stabbing case at the time that Cathy became a minor celebrity, pictured with Princess Diana and a host of showbiz stars.
As well as receiving teddies from all over the globe, she was also sent thousands of pounds tucked inside get well cards sent to her in hospital.
It was enough to buy a brand new Peugeot 307 for her stepfather Tony, who had run out into the snow in his bare feet to carry her home after she was found collapsed and bleeding.
After Chapman was jailed for 14 years, Cathy and her family had to leave Minster after suffering a bizarre hate campaign from locals.
She says: “People were horrible. I was really badly picked on at school and it was said they were jealous.
“Jealous of what? Because I got well-wishers. I got money. I got teddy bears. I was in the paper. I was on the news. I wouldn’t want anyone to go through being stabbed.”
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When Chapman was released after serving 11 years, Cathy was given police protection for five years. Doctors had told her mum that Cathy would never have children but, 15 years after the attack, she gave birth to daughter Summa, now 17, and later two boys and another girl.
She says: “I am quite protective of them but I know I have got to let them go out there and not stop them because of what happened to me.
“I can’t interfere with their lives but I am a little bit protective. My eldest two have phones. The youngest are always with me.
“When I know they can take it I will tell all of them what happened and I will show them my scars.
“If I didn’t have my children to protect I think I would have gone under from the scars of knife crime that you cannot see.”
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