All things must pass-including criminal sentences-and that has the family of the late George Harrison ticked off.
The rocker’s wife and son are angrily objecting to the release last week of the deranged fan who broke into the ex-Beatle’s mansion in December 1999 and nearly killed him in a knife attack.
An independent panel in England comprising a judge, a psychiatrist and a British citizen determined 36-year-old Michael Abram, a former drug addict who suffers from schizophrenia, was well enough to be released back into the community and set him free on July 4 from the Scott Clinic, a psychiatric facility in Liverpool.
“Michael Abram…has been given a conditional discharge today by a Mental Health Review Tribunal,” Mersey Care NHS Trust, the company that runs the institution, said in a statement. “In this case, the tribunal has given a conditional discharge. The conditions, which remain confidential, are to ensure the safety of the public.”
While specific details regarding the conditions of his freedom were not disclosed, Abram’s attorney, Peter Edwards, told Reuters that his client’s condition had vastly improved over the last two years due to a regimen of drug treatment that reined in his schizophrenia to the point where he was no longer experiencing symptoms of the illness.
“That’s the great tragedy of Michael Abram’s case,” he said. “He had spent many years going to hospitals and doctors seeking treatment for his mental illness, and been rebuffed. If [health officials] had done their jobs properly, Mr. Harrison and Mrs. Harrison would never have been attacked.”
Abram is expected to reside in a halfway house under the supervision of a nurse, social worker and psychiatrist.
But Harrison’s widow, Olivia, and son, Dhani, weren’t consoled by the news. They claimed they had not been notified about the decision, calling it “upsetting and insulting.”
“We certainly wish Mr. Abram no ill, but to be presented with this as a fact after the event is deeply upsetting and insulting, and we feel again completely let down by the system,” the family said in a statement. “It remains the case in this country that the victim simply has no voice. The law must be changed.”
They also said that the legendary singer-guitarist, who died of throat cancer last November, would have reacted to the news with “a mixture of anger and dismay.”
Abram had been confined to Liverpool’s Scott Clinic since November 2000, when he was found innocent of attempted murder by reason of insanity.
He had told authorities he was possessed and believed he was on a “mission from God” when he broke into the Harrisons’ home in Henley-on-Thames on December 30, 1999, and stabbed the musician multiple times, puncturing a lung. (Olivia Harrison was credited with saving her husband’s life by fending off Abram with a fireplace poker then smashing a lamp over his head.)
Over the Harrisons’ objections, the presiding judge remanded Abram to a high-security hospital “without time restriction.”
Now, the Harrisons say they want to avoid a repeat incident. Six weeks before the attack, Abram had been let out of another psych ward after seeking treatment from public health officials who failed to properly diagnose his illness. He was released despite assaulting a nurse.
However, following the Harrison incident, the authorities that released Abram said the man should have remained institutionalized. Saying that “lessons have been learned,” the officials later apologized to the rocker and proposed new guidelines to prevent the premature release of dangerous mentally ill patients from ever happening again.
For his part, the newly sprung Abram said he was sorry for all the pain he had caused.
“If I could turn back the clock, I would give anything not to have done what I did in attacking George Harrison,” he was quoted in the London Guardian “But looking back on it now, I have come to understand that I was at the time not in control of my actions. I can only hope the Harrison family might somehow find it in their hearts to accept my apologies.”