Jessica Knight speaks 10 years on: '˜Knife attack has cost me years of my life'
It may be a decade since she suffered a horrifying attack at the hands of a knifeman who stabbed her 20 times and left her for dead, but Jessica Knight still lives with the physical and mental scars of her ordeal.
Jessica, now 24, who lives at Buckshaw Village, near Chorley, was a 14-year-old schoolgirl when she was subjected to the frenzied stabbing by stranger Kristofer Beddar as she walked through the park listening to music on her iPod.
In the completely unprovoked attack, Jessica was knifed in her chest, neck and stomach and left in a pool of her own blood and was saved through emergency surgery.
Ten years on, Jessica says she is still living with the trauma and it has left a lasting impact on her life.
She has also spoken of her horror at the Johnston Press Investigations Team findings that children are taking knives and weapons into schools and says the dangers of knives need to be highlighted at a younger age.
Speaking of her own attack, Jessica says: “It is something that stays with you forever.
“There’s no way it can be reversed or forgotten.
“My injuries led to me suffering a stroke and that’s left me with some difficulties. I suffer from nerve pain and my speech is sometimes affected.
“I used to flinch and jump when people used to come at me from behind.”
Jessica says the life changing trauma has also affected her career prospects.
She explains: “I lost years from my life as I recovered from my injuries and what happened to me.
“At an age when other people my age were leaving school and starting and thinking about their careers, I could not.
“When you have gaps in your CV, potential employers don’t look favourably on it.
“My chances of having a smooth transition into a proper career have been affected by what happened to me.
“It totally turned my whole world upside down.”
Jessica says that when she hears about incidents where people are stabbed and about crimes involving knives, she feels fear and disappointment that things like this are happening in the world.
She says: “I don’t feel fear for myself, it is for the younger generation who are going to be living in this world as it is going to affect their children and my future children.
“Knives are frightening as you can get hold of them so easily.
“I think it is really alarming that children are taking weapons and knives into schools.
“I feel the whole of crime prevention needs to be looked at if crimes like this are starting so young.
“Children should not have knives or weapons in their possession and certainly not at school.
“If they are getting hold of knives and weapons when they are so young, they are going to see it as normal and the next step will be from carrying them to using them and no one will be safe from being a target.
“What happened to me shows how an innocent bystander can get hurt or worse due to knife crime.
“I think it needs proper education and an awareness campaign. I think there should be more regular knife amnesties where people surrender their weapons.
“There needs to be a change in society and the way crimes are viewed and treated.
“We need to get the message through to children from a young age that carrying a knife is wrong and is a crime.”
Desensitisation of violence
Sarah Jones, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime and MP for Croydon Central, says: “It’s really shocking to see the scale and increase of knife offences in our schools.
“My fear is that a generation of young people are growing up desensitised to violence.
“We know we can’t arrest our way out of this problem. Knife arches in schools are not going to solve the problem if the support is not there for young people who are at risk, or experiencing issues such as mental health problems.
“Schools are working under very difficult circumstances as real-terms funding cuts bite.”
Austerity cuts and the impact of knife crime
A knife crime prevention charity believes Government austerity cuts are a real factor in the rise in knife crime in the past five years.
The Ben Kinsella Trust which campaigns campaign against knife crime and educates young people about the dangers of carrying knives, says knife crime jumped to its highest level for seven years in the 12 months to March 2017.
Patrick Green, manager of The Ben Kinsella Trust, says: “In our opinion, the austerity cuts are a factor.
“If you look back between 2012 and 2015 when knife crime went down, the only significant difference is the austerity cuts.
“When there are young people who do not have positive role models at home, activities in their community and sports such as boxing and football can put them on the right track.
“Austerity cuts such as youth clubs and police numbers being cut has left a void and this has maybe led to these young people drifting into offending because there are not enough good things out there for them to become involved in.
“We think this has played a part in the rise of knife crimes.”
Penny Clough - mum of murdered Jane Clough
The mum of murdered Lancashire nurse Jane Clough is worried that carrying knives will become the norm unless the issue is tackled now.
Jane Clough, 26, was brutally murdered by her abusive ex-partner Jonathan Vass, of Preston, in the car park of Blackpool Victoria Hospital as she arrived for her shift at work.
Vass, a paramedic, who was on bail for raping and assaulting her at the time, stabbed her 71 times.
Penny Clough, Jane’s mum, who is married to John and lives in East Lancashire, says: “I think there needs to be more education from a very young age about knife crime.
“For parts of society, it has become so common to carry a knife, it is almost the norm.
“It is disturbing that children are carrying knives and weapons into schools. I can almost imagine bullying type scenarios if they don’t in some cases because of peer pressure in the same way that some young people feel pressurised to try smoking with an ‘I carry a knife, why don’t you?’ mentality.
“Knife crime is certainly a tremendous problem nowadays.
“There is almost a feeling as well where people are not afraid of the punishment or implications of carrying a knife either for themselves or others if they use it.”
Penny says people can’t imagine the devestating impact knife crime can have, until it is too late.
“Even now, I get upset thinking about what Jane went through going through that ordeal,” she said. “The impact on us as a family is devastating especially as we felt it was a preventable crime.
“Jane had a little girl who is now eight and she knows her mummy is dead but she does not know how she died.
“The time is going to come when we will have to tell her and we are concerned how it is going to affect her.
“She is going to have a lot to deal with and it is going to be very traumatic for her.
“More work needs to be done to find out why people want to carry knives and what is needed to be done to get them away from this.
“There is a risk of normalising violence and taking away the damage and impact it has on people.
“The person carrying the knife has made a conscious decision to do so and the person harmed is the innocent one.”