A TATTOED knifeman told a woman ‘what are you like with blood and guts’ before swinging a meat cleaver at her leg.

Lee Atkinson, who also threatened to kill the friend-of-a-friend in her Abingdon flat, failed to break the skin – instead leaving a nasty bruise.

But when the woman managed to escape the Brampton Close apartment with her dog, 39-year-old Atkinson took the cleaver to his own arm. Having hoped to be shot dead by armed police, he then tried to draw the knife across his throat when the unarmed constables arrived.

Recorder John Ryder QC took the unusual step after hearing about Atkinson’s various mental health and physical difficulties of adjourning sentence and bailing the defendant so he could speak to the probation service.

'It was like a horror film'

Summarising the victim’s witness statement earlier in the hearing, prosecutor Matthew Knight told Oxford Crown Court on Thursday: “She comments in her statement it being like the horror movie Saw. It was the most terrifying and surreal thing that had ever happened to her and she feels lucky to be alive

“She now no longer feels safe in her own home, puts a chair up against the front door when she goes to sleep to prevent anyone getting in and also sleeps with a large glass bottle by the bedside so she has a weapon for self-defence if necessary.

“She concluded her statement by saying she felt like this could really traumatise her.”

Herald Series: Brampton Close, Abingdon Picture: GOOGLEBrampton Close, Abingdon Picture: GOOGLE

The court heard that Atkinson arrived in Brampton Close on his motorcycle on March 12 this year expecting to have it out with his drug dealer over an apparent debt he owed.

He placed his motorcycle helmet on the ground intending to sit on it but stumbled and fell over.

His victim, who lived nearby, saw him in difficulty and went-over to help.

She invited him into her flat. As the door shut, Atkinson made the bizarre comment: “No one is coming in and no one is coming out.”

He also told her he had written a ‘suicide note’, he was going to ‘hurt’ the woman and also threatened to kill her.

Atkinson struck her leg with the cleaver but only left a bruise. The terrified woman took advantage of the knifeman needing to use the bathroom to grab her dog and leave the property.

While she was outside on the phone to the police, the defendant hacked at his own arm with the cleaver.

He later told a psychiatrist he hoped to be shot by police officers who came to the flat.

In the event, it was unarmed officers who knocked at the front door – although while the officers were in the kitchen with him he drew the knife across his throat.

Interviewed by the police, he initially denied taking the cleaver with him or making threats to the woman.

Herald Series: Lee Atkinson outside Oxford Crown CourtLee Atkinson outside Oxford Crown Court

Plea and mitigation

However, Atkinson, formerly of Appleford Drive, Abingdon, pleaded guilty at the first opportunity in the crown court to making threats to kill, possession of a bladed article and assault by beating.

He had 52 offences on his record but had been out of trouble since 2015. Mitigating, Dana Bilan said her client relapsed into alcoholism and drug use after being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2020. He also suffered from a personality disorder and had a history of self-harm.

Atkinson was said to be remorseful, while a psychiatric report said the defendant did not intend to harm the victim. Ms Bilan told the judge she had asked her client what he would say to the victim if he could. His answer was: “I am just very sorry for all the distress that I’ve caused her. That was never meant to happen. I am unwell.”

Why did the judge adjourn sentence and bail Atkinson?

Recorder Ryder took the unusual step of adjourning sentence for the preparation of a report by the probation service. He bailed Atkinson to live with his parents, making it easier for the report to be prepared and testing his commitment to working with probation.

He told the defendant: “I want to make plain to you that when first I read the documents in this case I thought it likely that I would be imposing what is called an extended sentence of imprisonment on you, which means a substantial term of imprisonment with an extended period on licence.

“I thought you would quite likely be dangerous and you could only properly be dealt with in that way.

“But having looked at and applied the relevant sentencing guideline it is apparent that the appropriate sentence in your case if I was sentencing you to immediate imprisonment would be somewhere in the region of 30 months or so, reduced to approximately 22 months [for his plea].

“You would serve half of that and the three months you’ve already served would be deducted, which means you would be kept in prison for nine months.”

He explained that the sentence would not be long enough for the court to find him to be a dangerous offender and impose an extended licence.

“The reason that the sentence would be in the region of 30 months is that when one actually looks at the detail of this offence and your personal history, a somewhat different picture emerges that was first suggested by a reading of the papers,” the judge went on.

“Most importantly, it seems to me that the greatest threat you pose, despite the absolute terror you struck in your victim, in reality the most serious threat you posed was to yourself.

“You have tragically been beset by ideas of suicide for as long as anybody – including yourself – can remember.

I think it is genuine that you hoped that you would be shot on this occasion and you on my exposure to the photographs of what you did to yourself you all but severed your arm. Whilst with the police officers in the kitchen you took the first opportunity available to you to pick up the cleaver and try to cut your own throat.

Herald Series: He was due to be sentenced at Oxford Crown Court Picture: ED NIXHe was due to be sentenced at Oxford Crown Court Picture: ED NIX

“Now, this all arises out of your extremely complicated medical and social history. You have abused alcohol excessively over the years and drugs. To your credit you were abstinent for some seven or so years.

“Unfortunately, you were diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis that led to all sorts of stresses – entirely understandably – which caused your relationship to fail and you relapsed into drug use again and this incident resulted from that.

“What I am most concerned about is dealing with you in a way that protects the public from any further incidents of this sort.

“I am satisfied you did not actually intent to attack your victim. You could have done so. You could have caused terrible injuries – indeed, you could have killed her had you been so included. I am quite satisfied you had no such inclination.”

He added: “I feel I can safely release you into the community. What matters, however, is that you address all the various problems that are afflicting you.

“I don’t feel that you will be in a position to do that alone. I don’t think anybody would be.

“What I am going to do is afford you the opportunity to have probation assist you and guide you in accessing various other medical agencies or non-medical agencies who can help you alleviate your problems and ensure you are not at risk of behaving in this way in the future and terrify anybody else.”

Atkinson will be sentenced on a date to be fixed.

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This story was written by Tom Seaward. He joined the team in 2021 as Oxfordshire's court and crime reporter.  

To get in touch with him email: Tom.Seaward@newsquest.co.uk

Follow him on Twitter: @t_seaward