Morecambe former illusionist's assistant tried to use her skills to escape as estranged husband tied her up and slashed her throat

A former illusionist's assistant who was imprisoned and strapped to a chair used her knowledge to free her hand to defend herself, moments before her throat was cut.

Monday, 1st March 2021, 2:19 pm

Convicted killer Juan Garcia-Hernandez, of Lancaster Road, Morecambe, had become "obsessed" over the nature of the relationship between his estranged wife Alison, and a younger relative, and had imprisoned his spouse for hours.

Preston Crown Court heard Garcia-Hernandez, who previously served 14 years in prison for the manslaughter of his former wife in 1984, donned a high vis jacket and cap and armed himself with Amazon parcels to disguise himself as a delivery driver to trick his way into her Torrisholme home.

Towards the end of the ordeal on September 18, 2019, the 66-year-old telephoned police and told them in a matter-of-fact tone: "I'm going to kill my wife and then I will kill myself. No more speaking, this is the end."

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Crown Court

Alison Garcia-Hernandez had used her knowledge to make out she was tightly bound but managed to free her hand to pull her hoodie around her neck and try to defend herself against him as police stormed her home.

Garcia-Hernandez slashed her as they entered and left her with a deep 13cm wound to her neck, which exposed thyroid cartilage and needed six operations, but it missed her major arteries.

He previously pleaded guilty to the attempted murder and false imprisonment.

Prosecuting, Francis McEntee said the offence was driven by the defendant's obsession about the nature of the relationship between her and a younger relative, and hatched an "elaborate plot" to interrogate and torture them both.

He added: " It was a plan to kill that resulted in long term and serious physical harm and psychological harm, and was of course an offence committed by a man with a previous conviction for homicide.

"She had previously worked as an illusionist's assistant and calling upon the skills she learned in that role helped ultimately to save her life."

The court heard they met in Spain, and married in 2008, but separated in January 2019.

Their problems were partly due to the arrival of a relative who came to stay with them, but she had also been aware of problems the defendant had been developing

Mr McEntee added: " She describes the defendant showing bizarre behaviour, telling her at one stage that he had terminal cancer, before then telling her he had been cured."

Following their separation he embarked on a "campaign of threats", telling her he was going to make her life difficult at work, and was going to use the internet to "ruin her reputation and "ruin her as a person".

Before the incident Garcia-Hernandez tried to convince her he was being admitted to hospital over his mental condition and insisted she needed to visit him but she had become sceptical about his claims.

He also told her he was going to Spain to reconcile with an aunt and uncle he had contacted on Facebook, and just before the incident made a phone calls claiming to be in Sierra Nevada visiting his sons.

On September 18 CCTV captured the defendant parking his vehicle near her address and donning a disguise as a delivery man before going to the address at around 4pm.

She answered him at the door knock on the door to him dressed in a high vis jacket and carrying packages.

As soon as she opened the door he threw the parcels at her and drew out a knife, holding it to her throat, telling her he would kill her if she made a sound.

She was forced at knifepoint to carry the boxes into the living room where he then strapped her to a chair, using cable ties and rather straps on her wrists ankles and knees.

He gagged her with gaffer tape as he left the house briefly and returned with carrier bags.

Mr McEntee added: "In what was a jarring contrast to what was happening to her, she watched him take out cakes, a bottle of Tia Maria and a bottle of whiskey.

"However she could also see he had brought a box of kitchen knives with him."

He quizzed her about the younger relative coming home and said he needed to speak to both of them and "had questions".

He said if he did not get the right answers he would be "cutting bits off them", showing her a pair of scissors, and said he wanted the young man to "beg for his life".

She was then permitted to visit the toilet.

Mr McEntee said: " It was here that her career as an illusionist's assistant came into play.

"She knew how to brace herself to give the impression she was tightly bound and using that knowledge she was able to gain herself literally some wriggle room to escape her bonds."

At 8.30pm the young relative called her from Lancaster station. Garcia- Hernandez turned off all the lights and lay in wait.

But as the young man arrived he realised Garcia-Hernandez was there and that it was not safe.

The defendant told him if he did not come in he would kill his victim and it would be his fault.

Police were alerted by passers by and called Mrs Garcia-Hernandez's phone. She told officers she had been tied up and was being held at knifepoint.

At 9.25pm the defendant called police and said they had "10 seconds to back off" or he would kill her.

At 9.28pm there was another call from her phone in which he said he was going to kill his wife, and this was the "end of it all".

Police stormed her home and she tried to fight him off as he slashed her twice, before wounding his own neck.

Mr McEntee said: " She recollects trying to hold her throat together as she was coughing up blood. She had the frightening sensation of feeling like he was trying to hold her head on."

In a victim statement the victim said she was left with a scar, was emotionally vulnerable and could not work, plunging her into debt.

She said she was horrified at his claims about her relationships and was embarrassed to speak to people to whom he had previously told lies about his health.

Dr Till, a psychiatrist, gave evidence to the hearing that he had been diagnosed with a delusional disorder.

The court heard Garcia-Hernandez had made unsubstantiated claims he had served with the French foreign legion and had PTSD.

Judge Heather Lloyd said the location and nature of the wound indicated a "concerted attempt to kill her" and imposed a hospital order under section 45a of the Mental Health Act 1983, alongside a life term with a minimum term of 12 years.

He will be detained at Guild Lodge in Preston as long as he needs treatment, and when it is no longer necessary he will be transferred to prison and will only be released after at least 12 years - and only when the Parole Board deems it safe.

She said: "She describes how your relationship deteriorated. You told her that everything you previously told her about yourself was a lie.

"She learned you had been imprisoned in the 1980s for killing your then wife.

"She tried to cope and relied on her faith to help her through the difficult times. You joined her church but by 2019 she was really concerned about your behaviour.

"She says you had a Jekyll and Hyde character.

"Your behaviour towards her apparently includes installing CCTV in the bedroom. You assaulted her and she felt compelled to contact a solicitor and you were warned about your behaviour.

"In September 2019, you told your wife you'd moved back to Spain.

"During a phone call you asked her to accept a parcel which was being delivered to the matrimonial home

"To perpetrate the myth that you were in Spain you even appeared to be speaking in Spanish to people in the background.

"It was a lie because it was all part of the plan which was to unfold, and it was extremely concerning and chilling.

"From about 4.30pm to 9pm she endured a terrifying ordeal. You threatened to slit her throat should she try to raise the alarm.

"You slit her throat at a time you believed her hands were bound, thus she would not be able to defend herself.

"In fact fearing matters were coming to a head and unbeknown to you she'd managed to struggle free and was able to try to protect herself against your repeated efforts to cut her.

"Despite this the injury to her throat is terrible. Had she not been able to protect herself the wound might have been fatal

"That was your intention.

"Any man who kills, or tries to kill, two wives is obviously dangerous."

The judge said the purpose of a hospital order is the rehabilitation of offenders and protection of the public, it is not concerned with punishment.

She said however deluded he was about his belief about his wife's relationships, he fully understood what he was doing in response to his belief. and had clearly and carefully thought out his plan, which required punishment.

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