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Suspect in Church Attack Charged

November 29, 1999

LONDON (AP) _ A man was charged with attempted murder Monday after police said he stormed naked through a Roman Catholic Mass in a sword-wielding rampage, injuring 11 people.

Eden Strang, 26, was charged with attempting to kill Paul Chilton, 50, the most seriously injured of the congregants at St. Andrew’s Roman Catholic Church in the southern London suburb of Thornton Heath.

Doctors said the attacker cut through Chilton’s jawbone with a 3-foot sword, slicing three front teeth off at the root. The blows severed his jugular vein and also cut off a thumb and a finger.

Worshippers returned to the church Monday to pray for the injured congregants _ and for the man who burst into the church nude during their Sunday morning Mass.

``I prayed for him and his family because we do not know what they must be going through,″ said Jessie Lissenburg, 44.

Another parishioner, John Cobb, 40, said: ``People are talking about forgiveness and reconciliation.″

Scotland Yard said it knew of no motive for the rampage.

``Apart from suffering some severe depression, we have no details as to why he carried out this horrific attack,″ Detective Chief Inspector Phil Fitzgerald said.

Witnesses said the naked man burst into the congregation, lashing out at people with a gold and silver sword. The elderly and those who were too slow or stunned to get out of the way took the brunt of the attack. Worshippers fled screaming and slipping in blood.

Some half-dozen men wrestled the attacker to the ground. Tom Tracey, an off-duty police officer, ripped out an organ pipe and a bank clerk used a crucifix attached to a pole to subdue the man.

Father Bill Agley, who spoke at Monday’s Mass, said he urged those in attendance to pray for forgiveness for the attacker and his family because ``we all need healing.″

``Of course it is difficult, but we as Christians need to work for healing and forgiveness,″ he said. ``We are very keen to have an open door policy, and we do need to look at the issue of security. It is a very difficult balancing act.″

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